Caregiving and the Coronavirus

By Shelly Beach

Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I flew to California several weeks ago in the first days of the coronavirus alert. Over the following days, I watched media reports with growing concern. Dear family members live in the area where the first death to the coronavirus occurred, and the illness was quickly spreading in the area where I was traveling.

My thoughts quickly turned to people back home who relied on me for caregiving. It was important to protect my health in order to protect them. And I quickly realized how important it was for me to think about a contingency plan for their care in the event that I would become ill. With or without the coronavirus outbreak, a contingency plan for care is always important.

How can caregivers make wise decisions regarding the current health crisis?

Be prepared. I believe that not planning for a potential crisis for yourself or your loved one is unwise. It’s better to be prepared than to risk their health or yours assuming that the coronavirus will not or cannot reach your community. I’m a caregiver classified in the “high risk” category, so it’s especially important for people like me to think through potential risk factors.

Be thoughtful. Don’t panic. Look to the CDC and other reputable medical resources for information, rather than the media. Gather information from reliable resources.

Begin with simple, vital steps.

  • As a caregiver, wash your heads regularly, lathering for at least 20 seconds. This is as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently.
  • Do not touch your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Do not touch surfaces that receive frequent touch: railings, door handles, tabletops, counters, pens, menus, etc. Wash hands immediately after being in a public environment or frequently if you are there for more than a short time.
  • Do not shake hands or hug. Stay at least 6’ away from other people. Remove yourself from people who are coughing or show signs of a fever.
  • Evaluate the need to be in large gatherings where the risk of contagion is higher.
  • Make sure your loved one’s hands are washed frequently as well.
  • Avoid sharing: dishes and glasses, food, towels, bedding, etc.
  • Limit guests coming into your home.
  • Keep your loved one away from pets because they can carry the virus.
  • Evaluate the need for medical workers and aides who come into your home. People who work in the health industry and those who work in multiple homes are at greater risk for contracting the coronavirus.

Prepare a contingency care plan.

Consider the following factors:

  • Who will care for my loved one if I become ill?
    • Do they require training or special information?
    • How will they access needed medications?
  • Evaluate the benefits and risks of bringing health workers into your loved one’s home.
  • Outside of getting medical care, have your loved one remain at home and self-isolate. Self-isolation is an option for those who have been exposed or who have mild symptoms.
    • Separate them from others who live in their home, as well as pets.
    • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
    • Have them wear a facemask whenever they’re around other people or animals. If your loved one cannot wear a face mask, those around them must wear one whenever they are in a room with your loved one.
  • Create a health log.
    • Record their temperature daily.
    • Record the foods they eat.
    • Record visitors’ names and dates.
    • If your loved one’s temperature elevates to 101 degrees or above, experiences shortness of breath, or begins coughing, call their physician.

Above all, stay current on national and local alerts regarding public safety.

Be sure to communicate specific needs and expectations with your designated backup caregivers. Provide written instructions and important contact numbers.

I’d love to hear from you. What plans have you put into place in response to the coronavirus  crisis? What advice have you found most helpful?