What Family Caregivers Need to do in the Time of COVID

What Family Caregivers Need to do in the Time of COVID

Caring for an aging parent or other family members needing assistance with physical or cognitive limitations can be terrifying. You can’t visit your loved ones in care facilities. At home, finding aides to care for them at home is a struggle. You are worried about the possibility of them contracting the potentially deadly coronavirus. You also worry about yourself contracting the virus. Most of all, you’re struggling because you just lost your job.

But these following ideas might help relieve the burden on both you and your loved ones. 

Start Planning For Them and for You

It’s time to create a living will because it’s just as important as designating someone you trust to act as a medical power of attorney. If they prefer to die quietly at home to avoid the tumult of a hospital, those receiving care can create a do-not-hospitalize order. Make sure you give copies to the appropriate primary care doctor and your local hospital once you are able to create these documents. Don’t forget to include them in your medical records. For those care facility residents, these documents must be managed together with a Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Care (MOLST).

You need to make another plan in this era of COVID-19. You won’t be able to provide hands-on care for your parents if you become a COVID-19 positive so you need to make a back-up plan. Don’t wait until you get the virus. Discuss this with family and friends now. Thinking about those who can support you and your loved ones is one way to do this. 

Consider Joining a Support Group

Family caregiving is already difficult as it is. Not being able to visit for weeks or months more is even more difficult if you have a family member who lives in the nursing home and assisted living facility. It’s normal to feel anxious and guilty.

You don’t have to manage this all by yourself. There are other people who are in the same situation as you are and talking to them to share your ideas, or maybe just sharing your frustrations will be good for you. There are local groups you can find through faith communities, Area Agencies on Aging, and local nonprofits that support older people or groups related to diseases.

Caring for a Family Member at Home

You need to protect yourself, your parents, home care workers if you are using them from infection. Make sure the agency you use to hire someone provides direct care workers with personal protective equipment including masks, gowns, and gloves. If you go through the direct hire route, you may need to provide that equipment yourself. It is, however, necessary that aides have personal protection access and properly use it.

Encourage your aides to stay home if they don’t feel well. If they have no sick leave, pay them. Don’t forget, shift workers may have other clients or are working part-time in a nursing home. This means their risk of contracting coronavirus themselves and passing it on to others is high. Make sure you help them and yourself safe from the virus.

You face different challenges if you are providing all the care yourself. It is even more difficult if you ask a friend or neighbor to relieve you while shopping for groceries or take a break from work. However, you can always ask people to shop for you such as your friends or relatives who can also provide you some virtual support through Zoom or FaceTime.

If you care for a loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, visiting is not allowed but you can make a phone call or arrange a video chat. Ask as many family members as possible to get involved including grandchildren. Cards and notes can also be sent by the grandkids and maybe even with photos.

The last advice caregivers might be able to find useful is to take a walk. In the age of COVID-19, caregiving can become even more all-consuming, physically, and emotionally. Taking a break is necessary and doing everything you can to maintain your own health is a must. The perfect solution could be taking a walk. You may feel that everything else is falling apart but this too shall pass, so hang into hope and do your best to find the silver lining in this situation.

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