Caregivers are great at planning ahead and managing unexpected health crises, but with COVID-19 you may not have time to plan or sort through the rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting available information. During this time of heightened awareness about public health and reducing risk of exposure for ourselves and those we care for, it’s critical to gather updated information from trusted sources. We also recognize that the everyday demands of caring for your loved one is already a full-time job, without adding decision-making on how to prepare for an infectious disease.
More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. (Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009)
Caring for those who are caring for others is an exploding new area for community concern. There’s statistical proof that caregivers tend to neglect their own spiritual, emotional and physical health, suffer stress levels equal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), experience depression and have increased mortality risk. Men, women, even children are affected. The numbers are on the rise as 77 million Baby Boomers turn 65 and older, and developmental disabilities now affect 1 in 7 children.
These Tips Can Help Keep You and Your Loved Ones as Safe as Possible.
Follow the Guidance of the CDC.
The CDC has put together a number of resources to answer specific questions and address concerns you may have. They have also formulated this guidance for caring for someone sick at home. The CDC’s current recommendations to help ensure everyone’s health and safety include:
- Avoid large crowds. Currently, the CDC is recommending no public gatherings exceeding 10 participants.
- Avoid non-essential travel.
Make sure you have enough of your loved one’s medical supplies and medications for an extended period.
Monitor the Health of Your Loved One, and Keep in Touch With Their Medical Team
Many health care plans and practices have their own guidelines for how and when they should be contacted about possible COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. Call your loved one’s primary care doctor and ask how they want you to proceed.
Know Your Own Risk Factors
Do you have a chronic condition? Are you immunosuppressed? Many caregivers themselves have health issues, so don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger.
Be Aware of Any Changes to Visitation Policies
Many hospitals and emergency rooms no longer allow visitors, including family caregivers, in treatment areas or patient rooms. In a situation where you are not allowed to be with your loved one in the hospital or emergency room, discuss a strategy with staff that will allow you to get updates on your loved one. Many skilled nursing and assisted living facilities have made changes to their visitation policies. Check to see if outside visitors are allowed before making a trip.
Prepare for a Possible Quarantine
If your loved one has been exposed to COVID-19 or has developed symptoms and/or tested positive for the virus, you will need to manage a 14-day quarantine.
Can your loved one stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home? They should also use a separate bathroom, if available. Avoid sharing personal items such as dishes, towels, and bedding.
Clean all surfaces that are touched often including counters, tabletops, and doorknobs. Use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.
Self-care is Important:
With the stress and anxiety around COVID-19, ensure that you’re taking care of yourself.
The Harnett County Division on Aging offers a Family Caregiver Support Program. This is a national program that was established in November 2000 under the Older Americans Act of 1965, to help support family members caring for an aging loved one. The Harnett County Family Caregiver Support Program provides information about available services, assistance gaining access to services, caregiver trainings, respite care, and supplemental services. For more information about the Family Caregiver Program, or the support groups, contact Latorius Adams, Family Caregiver Support Program Coordinator at 910-814-6075 or log onto the Division on Aging website at www.harnett.org/aging