The COVID-19 crisis has seemingly touched everyone’s life, and not just here in America, but across the globe. Young children are being homeschooled, working age people are adjusting to working from home, those who live alone are trying to combat loneliness while also practicing social distancing, and Baby Boomers and the elderly are worried about their increased risk for this mysterious virus. In short, these are uncertain times for everyone.
As a caregiver for a loved one, however, there are additional challenges that have to be considered in a time of crisis. For instance, if you get sick, who will care for your loved one? Or if your older parent is in a health facility right now, how do you care for them from a distance? Here are some ways we can adjust to caregiving through a crisis, during COVID-19 and beyond:
Make Your Own Health A Priority
One of the main priorities for caregivers, whether in crisis or times of normalcy, should be maintaining your own health and wellness. Caregiver burnout can be detrimental to your health, and making sure that you are getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutritious food can help prevent burnout and keep you operating at your best.
In the age of COVID-19, this also means that caregivers must be strictly adhering to the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Maintain social distancing. According to the CDC, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” That means keeping a safe distance of 6 feet between yourself and others when outside of your home and generally limiting your exposure by steering clear of high-traffic areas when possible. If your pharmacy will deliver, opt in to that service instead of going to pick it up in person.
Wash your hands thoroughly. Hands should be washed with soap and water after coming into contact with outside objects and people, lathering for at least 20 seconds before drying off. If soap is not readily available, use hand sanitizer that consists of 60% alcohol for maximum impact.
Avoid touching your face when out in public. Since the virus enters the body through entry points such as the mouth, nose, and eyes, you can help prevent yourself from contracting the virus by not touching your face with unwashed hands, especially while out in public.
Additionally, stress is at an all-time high right now (as it usually is in times of crisis), and protecting your mental health is equally as important as protecting your physical health. Meditation apps can be wonderful tools for relaxation, especially if you don’t have a regular meditation practice. Headspace is currently offering free mediations, along with Calm and Aura, who has a discount code to provide you with 3 months of free service.
Find Ways To Avoid Isolation
Even though we are encouraged to be apart from people right now, there are ways to get creative about staying in touch with loved ones to avoid isolation and feeling lonely. From having socially distanced conversations with friends who stay on your lawn while you’re on the porch, to driving by your grandchild’s house and blowing kisses from the passenger seat while they play on their driveway--you can still have an in-person experience with others while maintaining your distance.
Technology has also proven to be a wonderful way for people to keep in touch with friends and loved ones during this crisis. For those who are elderly, however, new technology can be confusing or challenging for them to learn. Aside from the telephone, there are a few different ways you can connect to loved ones via video, at varying degrees of complication for older adults:
FaceTime for Apple users. If you and your loved ones both have iPhones, iPads, or even Mac computers, you will be able to video chat with them easily using FaceTime. FaceTime is pretty seamless, you simply have to understand how to set up the functionality on your phone or iPad, and Apple Support provides detailed instructions to help.
Facebook Messenger. The messenger feature comes standard with your Facebook account and can be used on both cell phones and computers with video capability. When you click on a contact to send them a new message, you will also see a video camera icon and a telephone icon appear in the upper right hand side of the message box. These buttons provide you with the ability to video chat with any of your Facebook contacts, and does not cost any money.
Zoom Video Platform. Prior to this crisis, Zoom was primarily used to connect remote offices for meetings and conferences using video to provide an in-person feel. Although many people are continuing to use this platform in this work from home environment, Zoom has evolved into a platform that also provides a social connection as well. Even better, a basic account is free, and includes 40 minutes of video time per call, for up to 100 participants at a time.
If you currently provide care for a loved one who is in a senior living community, rehab facility, or nursing home, there is a good chance that they have also implemented video technology to connect you to your loved ones.
Teaching loved ones how to take advantage of these technologies now, will continue to make it easier to keep in touch in the future, once this pandemic is behind us.
Minimize The Risk For Loved Ones
As a caregiver to a loved one, you serve as a gatekeeper for important information. Oftentimes, this information can solely be medical, however, in times of crisis it is worth talking to the loved one you care for about their pharmaceutical needs, their banking needs, and any additional essential needs that may tempt them to leave the house. They may not understand the risk associated with popping into the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, or going to the bank to deposit a check.
In order to minimize their risk, you can arrange to set up socially distanced deliveries and telehealth appointments for them. You can arrange to have prescriptions sent via mail-order, help your loved one download mobile banking apps that allow them to deposit checks with their phones, and even ensure that they are capable of having telehealth doctor appointments with their physician. Encourage them to focus more on email and phone communications, and strongly recommend that they avoid traveling as much as possible. Even essentials such as groceries can be delivered to the house so that your loved one can avoid trips to the supermarket.
Put A Plan In Place
There’s nothing quite like a crisis to make you realize that you need to put a plan in place for emergencies. When you serve as a caregiver for an aging loved one, being listed as an official medical proxy who can make healthcare decisions on a loved one’s behalf, or having the power of attorney to make financial and legal decisions, can create expediency in the face of chaos. Talk to your loved one about their wishes for end of life care, even though it might make you both uncomfortable to think about.
Additionally, if you have siblings it’s imperative that you talk about your parent’s wishes and are all on the same page about the roles that you will play should a medical emergency occur. And if you serve as your parent’s main caregiver, talk to your siblings about what would happen should you get sick to put a Plan B in place.
Check the Medical Guardian website regularly for more coronavirus information, articles and helpful checklists.