Is it safe to bring in care for my elderly family member?

During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic we were unsure how long this virus was going to last. As days have turned into weeks, and weeks into months it has become more clear that "corona" is here to stay for a while. As the weeks have gone by, we have learned a lot. Among the things that have become apparent is that older adults particularly those over the age of 70 are most at risk for serious health outcomes if they contract the virus. Many family members have found themselves to be "chronically" caregiving and "suddenly" caregiving during this time.

Life has continued to go on with the cloud of COVID-19 above us. Family caregivers are more stressed and isolated than ever, and it's often scary to know how to handle the need for outside resources. If you are at the point now of really needing to bring in community-based care options to assist you in your caregiving journey, your primary goal should be to reduce the risks for your loved one as much as possible. What we are learning about the disease is evolving on a day-to-day basis. You should try your best to follow the guidelines that are being set to protect our especially vulnerable loved ones.

1. Follow the CDC's recommendations for high-risk individuals. All family member living in the home with your loved one and those who visit the home should follow the CDC's recommendations for high risk individuals. Handwashing remains key above and beyond other methods of hand sanitization. Also pay attention to surfaces your loved one contacts frequently, things like phones, door handles, grab bars, water faucets, refrigerator handles, etc.
2. Stay away if you are sick. There appears to be a never-ending list of possible COVID-19 symptoms. If you are sick or think you might be sick it is best not to visit your at-risk loved one.
3. Interview the outside agencies you are employing to assist with care to find out what they are doing to keep your loved one safe. It helps to have a clear understanding of how much potential exposure someone has to the virus. Do they have adequate PPE (personal protective equipment), how many visits is the caregiver making a day, do they have any active COVID-19 patients under their care? Asking questions can help you minimize your own anxiety and can help you make an educated decision about the type precautions you feel are important to reduce your older adult's risk of becoming infected. It is OK to request precautions that are more restrictive than the standard set by our state but the agencies you bring in should at least meet the minimum guidelines.

4. Less people = less risk. In general, the fewer people your loved one interacts with the lower the chances of exposure to the virus. While it is painful to keep physical distance from those we love, we need to stay at least 6' apart when it can be reasonably accommodated.

If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1000 people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily.

More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.
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