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Precautions for caregivers in a time of pandemic

Over the past few months, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the United States and spread quickly. There is a huge emphasis on protecting our elderly population and those with underlying health conditions, as they are at higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19. Most states have enacted stay-at-home policies to encourage the population to remain at home and maintain social distancing as much as possible.

However, many of our elderly loved ones rely on daily care and assistance from family, often directly in their own home. In addition, the primary caregiver is often a senior themselves. In some situations, complete social distancing is not possible due to the care required. However, there are some extra precautions caregivers can take to ensure their loved one’s needs are met while following guidelines from the CDC.

Limit visitations to a single caregiver

For elderly who still live in their own homes, it is common for a few family members to share duties such as checking in, preparing meals, managing medications and other personal care. While this is generally convenient and helps to spread out the responsibilities of caregiving, it’s not the safest approach during a pandemic. “As much as we want to see loved ones, it’s important to prohibit visitors who don’t play an essential role in their daily care and to limit contact to one caregiver if possible” states Juliane Barbato, Registered Nurse, Enrollment for Elderwood Health Plan.

Follow the basic guidelines

Although it may seem obvious and shared widely throughout the media, following basic guidelines is critical to protect yourself and your loved one, and to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands often and assist your loved one in washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, following these five steps.

While providing care, maintain a distance of 6 feet or more when possible. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often using products designed to kill viruses. You can find the EPA’s list of registered disinfectants here.

Use protective equipment if available

For most people, an N-95 mask may be hard to come by as these are being preserved for healthcare workers. However, the CDC has released new guidelines around wearing cloth masks for added protection. “Wearing a cloth mask does not mean one should stop following the other precautions. The purpose of the cloth mask is to protect others from those who may be asymptomatic. Many people don’t exhibit signs of COVID-19, so wearing a cloth mask helps to protect the spread of a silent virus to your loved one,” says Barbato.

Utilize technology

The use of smartphones, devices and social media has opened up new pathways for face-to-face communication. Staying connected can help your loved one to feel supported during these difficult times when it’s not possible to visit in person as often. There are a variety of mobile and web-based programs that allow you to set up video calls, including:

These types of technology allow for multiple family members to connect on one call. You can have a virtual birthday celebration, enjoy a family meal together, or just come together to brighten your loved one’s day.

In addition, most insurance carriers now offer telehealth options where you can visit with a doctor and video chat right from the comfort of your own home. Many urgent care centers are also offering this option. If you or your loved one are sick and experiencing symptoms that need medical attention, whether related to Coronavirus or other illness, telehealth provides a safer alternative to visiting a doctor’s office.

By using extra precautions while still providing necessary care, you can help to keep your loved one safe and healthy. If you or your family member experience any concerning COVID-19 symptoms, please call your primary physician right away. You can also check on your county’s website for COVID-19 hotlines, which can provide further instruction.

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