Caregiving

Worrying about your own health during the COVID-19 pandemic is stressful, but the pressure to stay healthy is even greater if you’re a caregiver for a family member or other loved one. Since many older people have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus, millions of caregivers all over the country are dealing with the worry that they might expose their loved ones to coronavirus. The danger is real. According to geriatrician Dr. Swati Gaur, medical director of New Horizons Nursing Facilities in Georgia, the fatality rate of COVID-19 for people over 80 is about 18 percent. But there are things caregivers can do to protect their loved ones. Here are a few ways to deal with being a caregiver during the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep Yourself Healthy

You can’t be a caregiver if you’re the one who needs care, so do your best to avoid getting sick. Be extra careful about keeping surfaces clean, washing your hands, not touching your face, and avoiding contact with people outside the home. If you have to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy, wipe down your cart or shopping basket and touch as few surfaces as possible. When you get home, wipe down your purse or wallet, clean your phone with disinfectant wipes, and clean door handles. Take off your shoes before you come inside the house.

Have a Backup Plan

Have a plan in place if you do fall ill. Caregivers are used to being the ones in control, but if you’re sick, it’s dangerous to expose your loved one to disease. Talk to your family and make a plan about how you will manage caregiving duties if you get sick. Pick a backup caregiver who can be ready for an emergency if you get sick. Even if you feel a little unwell, it’s safest to protect your loved one and avoid contact.

Check Supplies of Medication

Take an inventory of what medication you have on hand and how much you have. If you don’t have one already, create a list of medications, contact information for doctors, and other important medical information. Ask your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist if you can stock up on prescription medication. The AARP recommends having at least 30-day supply of prescriptions on hand. Think about what over-the-counter medications your loved one needs, too, like fever-reducing drugs like acetaminophen.

Postpone Routine Medical Appointments

Because any trips out of the house could expose your loved one to the coronavirus, ask their doctor if it’s okay to postpone scheduled routine appointments. Ask about any telehealth services or virtual care that the doctor’s office offers. If your loved one has a medical issue or questions, definitely call the doctor’s office. But if a visit isn’t a vital need or a medical emergency, postpone doctor’s office visits until this crisis passes.

Find Out About Delivery

To avoid exposing yourself to the coronavirus, you should limit your trips outside the home. While grocery and pharmacy runs are still allowed, even under stay at home or shelter in place orders, you can look for ways to minimize those trips even more. It may be possible for meals, food, medicine, and other necessities to be delivered to your or your loved one’s home. Call your pharmacy and grocery stores and find out about their delivery options.

Stay Connected

It’s important to feel stay connected to other people, now more than ever. Encourage and help your loved one to contact friends and family. Phone calls, texts, letters, and cards are ways to maintain social distance without feeling isolated. Talking to neighbors is still acceptable, as long as you stay the recommended distance apart (the current recommendation is six feet).

Help with Technology

Many people are using technology to stay in touch. However, the new technologies that are making this possible can be intimidating. If your loved one has a smartphone, computer, or tablet, they may be able to watch or participate in activities they used to do in person. Many religious services and social meetings are happening virtually. If you can, help your loved one join in with these online events. If you aren’t tech savvy either, ask around, and see if someone you know can help.