For the past several months, seniors and their families have grappled with the unknowns surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Since people can be contagious before symptoms present (if symptoms appear at all) and it is impractical to rely solely on testing, there are no automatic clues as to whether someone has the potential to spread the virus or not. This is why family caregivers need a coronavirus plan – and a back-up – on how to care for an elderly loved one during the pandemic.
Postponing Care Can Be Riskier Than The Virus Itself
Those at higher risk for COVID-19 have faced many difficult decisions due to fear of contracting the virus. These decisions can impact their physical and emotional health and they must be weighed carefully. Whether bypassing skilled rehab after surgery, avoiding doctor appointments for chronic conditions, or postponing a move into assisted living, seniors have not been prioritizing their physical care needs. Going without necessary care can be riskier than the virus itself which is why finding safer solutions is so important. Given the restrictions in facilities, providing help at home allows for more opportunities for engagement and is the preferred option right now as long as care needs can be met.
How To Manage Chronic Conditions And Prevent The Virus From Coming Into The Home
- Check with your physician about telemedicine appointments whenever possible and develop a plan for how daily care needs will be met.
- In order to welcome anyone into the home to meet care needs, there needs to be a protocol in place to prevent virus transmission.
- When hiring a home care agency such as Alvita Care, ask them what precautions and protocols they already follow.
- If using family members or friends, remember to have a back-up plan should he/she get sick.
How to Mitigate the Risk of Infection
When faced with the many unknowns of COVID-19, it is easy to become overwhelmed. This is why it’s important to focus on what we DO know about the coronavirus and follow the CDC guidelines as defined below:
- Know how it spreads through respiratory droplets
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol. It’s especially important to wash:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your mask
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact and maintain 6 feet distance with people who are sick and/or people who don’t live in your household.
- Wear a mask to cover your mouth and nose when around others even if you do not feel sick. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Monitor your health daily and be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Consult your physician to evaluate the benefit of getting the Flu Vaccine
Social Distancing and the Holidays
The need for social distancing has forced many to limit engagement since March, leading to long periods of isolation. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, “Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” The impact of social isolation will be magnified over the holidays. So how can we plan meaningful interactions for seniors, especially with the holidays approaching?
Whether traveling or using technology to be together, here are some simple family caregiver tips to consider when making plans for the holidays and throughout the coronavirus pandemic:
- Plan in-person holiday protocols when visiting vulnerable family members, i.e. quarantining prior to a visit, use of extra PPE, necessary protocols when entering the home, etc.
- Visit at a physical distance, through a window, or through a sliding glass door.
- Instead of air travel, use various technological platforms, i.e. FaceTime, Facebook Portal, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, etc. to connect family holiday celebrations in multiple cities.
- Email or mail a picture and handwritten message
- On video or phone calls, share a funny story, sing a favorite song together, tell a funny joke or riddle, read a favorite poem or chapter of a book, play a simple game, etc.
You Don’t Have To Do This Alone
Remember that fear is just as contagious as the virus so keeping that in check is just as important. We know that cases are growing at a higher speed, so it’s important to plan for another wave of COVID-19 and protect yourself and others from this disease. Getting an aging expert onboard can help you stay calm in the face of all the uncertainty.
By consulting with an aging expert, such as a geriatric care manager, you have an advocate who will answer your questions and they can provide the ongoing guidance, resources, and support that you deserve. Here are common questions that family caregivers ask when faced with the coronavirus:
- Do I need skilled rehab after surgery or can I recover at home?
- How can I make sure caregivers don’t bring COVID here?
- What can I do to prevent my dad from being isolated?
- Who will take care of my parents if I get sick?
- Should I move my mom in or out of assisted living?
- How can I keep everyone safe amidst my busy and hectic life?
Get Help Managing Care During These Unprecedented Times
We know how overwhelming this can be and we’re here to help. Contact us to set up a free phone or video consultation. We’ll discuss how to plan for the coronavirus and find a care solution that works best for your family.