Caregiving During Coronavirus: How to Keep Elderly and At-Risk Loved Ones Safe

Last updated on December 8th, 2022 at 08:26 pm

Caregiving has never been more challenging than during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to your own fears about the virus, you may be worried about a semi-dependent loved one contracting a severe coronavirus infection.

Adults who are 65 or older or who have preexisting medical conditions are at higher risk of severe coronavirus infection than other groups. If you are caring for someone in one of these categories, you should take extra precautions.

Here’s what you need to do to keep care recipients safe:

Practice social distancing as much as possible

There’s no getting around it: social distancing is emotionally challenging. Most people will have to make a large adjustment to get through the next few months, especially those who previously had busy social lives.

While you are almost certainly taking at least some measures to reduce exposure to the virus, you may need to do even more:

  • Don’t visit anyone.

Physically visiting even a single friend is enough to put everyone at higher risk for coronavirus, according to researchers from the University of Washington. While it may be hard to convince your loved one that they can’t visit their best friend or their daughter, it’s vital that you keep them physically apart from anyone outside their immediate household.

  • Postpone non-urgent medical appointments.

Physical visits to the doctor’s office require going out in public and potentially exposing your loved one to the virus. While some doctor visits are immediately necessary, others can be put off, such as annual checkups and elective surgery. Some doctors are even doing consults via telemedicine.

  • Avoid travel for a while.

Even after the economy begins to ramp up again, you may want to postpone traveling for a couple of months. The coronavirus could surge back when restrictions relax, as it has in South Korea, Singapore, and other countries that previously flattened the curve.

Keep yourself healthy

If a caregiver becomes infected with COVID-19, there’s a strong chance they will pass the virus to their care recipients. Remember, someone can be contagious even if they do not know they have the virus and are not experiencing symptoms.

Take the following precautions to avoid contracting the coronavirus and passing it to the person you are caring for:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after providing care, touching surfaces in public places, using the bathroom, and preparing food.
  • Do not physically visit friends and family members who live outside your home.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Regularly clean door handles, mobility equipment, medical supplies, and other frequently touched surfaces in your home.

Treat yourself with the same care and caution that you would use with the loved one you are caring for.

Prepare for Illness

Make sure you’re stocked up on medications, food, and pet supplies. If you or your loved one becomes ill in spite of the safety measures you take, you will need to stay quarantined at home for two weeks or more. It’s a good idea to make sure you have all of the essentials on hand, just in case.

You should also choose an emergency contact who can care for your loved one if you become ill. Another family member or neighbor may be willing to take on this role.

Encourage your loved one to engage in at-home activities

Your loved one is likely getting cabin fever, too. While you shouldn’t give in to pressure to take them to social gatherings and in-public activities, older adults may benefit from taking on a new project or participating in lockdown-friendly activities.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Go through old photos with your loved one. They can tell you about the stories and memories behind the photos, and you can organize the photos to make a scrapbook.
  • Play board games or do puzzles together.
  • Sign up for a video-based art course.
  • Find at-home exercise videos you can do together.
  • Gather family recipes and try cooking them together.
  • Watch movies and ask your loved one to share their favorite music.

Encourage physically distant social connections.

Social distancing doesn’t mean complete social disconnection. During a time of global fear, it’s more important than ever to connect with others for our own mental wellbeing. Social distancing just means you need to get a bit more creative.

Encourage your loved one to connect with others in safe ways:

  • Have them call friends, family members, and other connections they may not see very frequently.
  • Find out if there’s a way to access spiritual services online.
  • Virtually attend exercise classes, university lectures, or other events with your loved one.

Regardless of what is going on in the outside world, your loved one can still connect with others virtually and enjoy conversations with people they care for. Laughter and good conversations will help us all get through the next few months.

Get the help that you need

Is your loved one struggling with mental health? Do you need assistance with caregiving? Contact Sunrise to get compassionate help with home care, mental healthcare, behavioral health services, geriatric transitions, financial management, and more.

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