Coronavirus worries add stress to caring for older adults. Rebecca Rushing, BSN, RN, from FirstLight Home Care shares advice on keeping seniors safe, protecting them from exposure to the virus, creating a backup plan, and taking precautions.
For family caregivers, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is raising some serious questions about the health and safety of their loved ones.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for the disease yet and many of our older adults are at high risk for serious complications.
Caring for an older adult in the shadow of this outbreak is terrifying.
It raises questions like, “What will I do if they get the disease,” or “What happens if their home caregivers come into contact with someone suffering from this?”
Most importantly, it introduces uncertainty, fear and doubt into the minds of people already weighed down by the stress of caregiving.
How can I keep seniors safe?
While there isn’t a cure yet, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself and your family, and avoid spreading the disease if you have it.
The CDC’s clearest recommendation for keeping yourself safe is to frequently wash your hands thoroughly and to not to touch your face.
Also, avoid public spaces, crowds and large gatherings, and stay away from people who appear ill.
At home, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces help prevent the spread of disease.
In general, the best prevention for this virus is the same as preventing a cold or flu, and that’s good hygiene.
But there are a few additional things to keep in mind.
We can come into contact with many re-contamination opportunities throughout the day that we might not think about.
For example, did you know that leaving your hands wet after washing them can breed viruses and bacteria faster than if you dry them with a paper towel? And that using an air dryer can blow airborne contaminants back onto your clean hands?
Also, think about what you spend more time touching every day than anything else.
That’s right, even your smartphone can harbor disease, and if you’ve touched a contaminated surface, it’s easy to transfer those viruses and bacteria to your phone, where they can live for hours or days.
Even if you’ve washed your hands, touching your phone and then your face can cause illness.
Luckily, disinfectant wipes for smartphones and other devices can make sure your phone stays clean.
How can I or our home caregiver avoid spreading germs to my older adult?
When someone is infected with COVID-19, the only real way to prevent them from spreading this disease is for that person, and the people they live with, to stay home.
Regardless of responsibilities, careers, errands, or important events, it’s critically important for everyone who is infected to stay home to avoid spreading it to other people.
Create a backup care plan
An event like this is a good time to create an emergency care plan for your older adult. Key questions to consider include:
Are there other family members who can care for them if you or their primary professional caregiver can’t?
If you’re using a professional caregiving service, do they have infection control protocols in place? Are they working with their employees to ensure they are trained in infection control and up to date on the latest guidelines?
Does the agency have a plan if an employee has coronavirus symptoms or becomes infected? Will they find a quality caregiver replacement to ensure your loved one has the care they need?
Don’t panic, but take precautions
Now is a good time to make sure that older adults have enough of their regular medication on hand.
It’s also helpful to stock up on non-perishable, easily-accessible food that your older adult can eat if nobody is able to cook fresh food for them.
If they need help and you’re not able to be there, consider options like assistance from a professional home care agency.
Unfortunately, a pandemic situation is also a good reminder of the importance of having a living will and medical power of attorney in place. Having these documents on hand can avoid added stress if there’s a health emergency.
While things are scary now, especially for people caring for older adults, this storm will eventually pass, and we will all be able to breathe a well-earned sigh of relief.
Until then, remember to take care of yourself, wash your hands, and plan ahead so your older adult will be cared for even if you can’t be there in person.
Recommended for you:
- 8 Shelter-in-Place Coronavirus Tips for Senior Care in Your Home
- Coronavirus Senior Care: 32 Top Caregiver Questions Answered
- Coronavirus and Seniors: What You Need to Know
- Nursing Home Lockdown: 6 Ways to Stay Connected with Seniors During a Coronavirus Scare
Guest contributor: Rebecca Rushing, BSN, RN, is director of Client Care Services for FirstLight Home Care. Nurse Beckie is a certified dementia practitioner, an Ageless Grace brain health educator, and a Positive Approach® to Care Independent Trainer. Beckie has more than 30 years of nursing experience and a passion for the well-being of older adults.
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