Millions of Americans are currently sheltering in place as the country struggles to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. For many, sheltering in place means spending more time with loved ones, including kids that are home from school and elderly parents. Thousands of home healthcare aides have been asked to stay home as well, which means many individuals will have to fill in the gaps by caring for their elderly loved ones themselves. Older individuals may need help eating, bathing, dressing, and taking their medication throughout the day.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) tends to be more dangerous for elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions. If you suddenly find yourself caring for an elderly loved one during the pandemic, learn more about at-home care, so you can protect your family from the virus.
Help Is a Phone Call Away
Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you need to go it alone.
Many states have recently increased their telehealth coverage. These services are also covered by Medicaid/Medicare, so you shouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket. Use these digital tools to monitor and report back on the health of your loved ones. If they start to show symptoms of COVID-19 or their health changes for any reason, help is just a phone call away. Call their doctor and wait for instruction, or of course, make a trip to the ER. About 46% of home caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks. If you’ve never performed these tasks before, contact a professional for tips and assistance.
Keeping Your Home Safe
Your home may need a makeover if you plan on sheltering in place with an elderly loved one. To protect them from the virus, consider having them stay in a separate room or living area. The virus may be able to move through the air. Allocate separate supplies to the most vulnerable members of your household, including dishes, linens, and other household objects to limit the spread of germs.
Depending on the condition of your loved ones, you may need to install handrails, adjust the lighting, or use other elderly care items to keep your home safe. It’s important for an elderly relative or friend to be able to move through the space without hurting themselves. Use adaptive senior clothing, such as elastic waist pants, slip-resistant socks, and assisted or self-dressing clothing, to keep your loved ones safe and comfortable during their stay. Stock up on home healthcare supplies such as thermometers, incontinence products, band aids, sanitary wipes and other must-have essentials.
Managing Your Time
Between working from home, protecting and caring for your loved ones, and homeschooling, time is bound to get away from you as this quarantine stretches on. Set alarms and reminders to help you stay on top of important tasks, such as preparing meals, administering medication, and disinfecting commonly used items and surfaces. It’s reported that the virus can last up to 14 days on surfaces, so look for the extra attention to detail when disinfecting. Remember that bleach needs to sit for 30 seconds to eradicate most germs. Spraying and wiping immediately does not sanitize.
If you run short on time, you may find yourself rushing throughout the day, but don’t overlook the emotional aspects of caregiving. Close to 68% of adult caregivers say they occasionally provide emotional support to their loved ones, while a third say they do this frequently. Staying at home can take a toll on everyone’s mental health, so try to stay positive as much as possible. Focus on helping each other through this stressful time.
Make Time for Self-Care
Research shows an estimated 17-35% of family caregivers view their health as fair to poor. These statistics vary widely based on a number of factors, including the age of the patient, the burden of care, and the existence of preexisting health conditions. The older the patient and the more involved the care, the more your mental and physical health may start to suffer. Additionally, older caregivers tend to suffer more than younger caregivers. An average of 11% of family caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to deteriorate.
Roughly 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. About a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Allocate the same time to go for a walk each day. I.e. 4pm for 30 minutes.
Call Before Going to the ER
As the pandemic continues, you may be worried about your loved one coming down with COVID-19 or some other health condition. If you believe your parent or loved one needs to go to the hospital or doctor’s office, you need to call ahead of time.
Contact the office to see if it’s safe to come into the facility or if they have any vacancies. They may direct you to another local facility or give you strict instructions for bringing your loved one into the facility. Depending on where you live, local health systems may be overwhelmed with virus patients. Your loved one will likely contact the virus if you bring them into the emergency room or hospital. Always call ahead before bringing your loved one in for in-person care.
Keep these tips in mind as you adjust to your new role as a caregiver. Having everyone at home may not be easy, but you can all get through if you work together.