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Caring for the Elderly: What Family Caregivers Need to Know About Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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As a family caregiver, your top priority is the health and happiness of your loved one. With this, comes a myriad of responsibilities—some of which you can and can’t control.

When dealing with an uncontrollable situation, like the current, escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, remember to keep your attention on the factors you can control.

Knowing older generations, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, are at higher risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19, there are steps you can take to protect the most vulnerable.

Below, we outline what family caregivers need to know about COVID-19 when caring for an aging or ailing loved one.

Read Busch Funeral and Crematory Services’ response to COVID-19.

What is COVID-19, and who is at the greatest risk?

According to the Ohio Department of Health:

“COVID-19 is an upper respiratory tract disease caused by one of the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans.”

The virus is spread from person to person through the air by sneezing or coughing, or by close contact, such as shaking hands. Symptoms, which generally appear within a week of exposure, include fever and cough, as well as shortness of breath.

People over 60 are more likely to have severe or fatal infection, especially those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. While there are no vaccines to prevent COVID-19, there is plenty of information available to help family caregivers during this time of uncertainty.

Protect the Elderly

Amid the uncertainty, geriatricians emphasize the importance of maintaining good habits to protect older people. In the case of family caregivers, help your loved one reduce risk in the following ways:

  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Clean and disinfect belongings.
  • Eat nutritious meals.
  • Exercise.
  • Limit travel.
  • Sleep seven to eight hours a day.
  • Socialize from afar.
  • Use hand sanitizer, or wash hands with soap and warm water often.

According to the New York Times:

“There’s no evidence yet that older people are significantly more likely to acquire the coronavirus than younger people. But medical experts say that if people over 60 are infected, they are more likely to have severe, life-threatening disease, even if their general health is good.”

Remember: Preparation Is Key

As the spread of COVID-19 continues, you may feel compelled to stock up on supplies, especially if you’re caring for others. 

Ideally, you should avoid crowds altogether, but if you must go out in public to grocery shop, limit close contact with others. Caregivers are recommended to get a two-week supply of grocery items, including:

  • Non-perishable items, such as canned goods, pasta and rice.
  • Breads, meats, vegetables and fruits to freeze.
  • Toiletries, such as toothpaste and toilet paper.
  • Cleaning supplies, such as disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Medications and prescriptions.

Remember to only get what you need, so others also have the opportunity to get the necessary supplies they need, too.

Managing Work-Life Balance During the Outbreak

Work-life balance is already a tricky situation to master as a family caregiver, even when we’re not facing a global health pandemic. But today’s current events only make it harder for some.

If you’re unable to work because you’re caring for an ill loved one, talk with your employer. Real-time bills were recently passed that “aim to give paid leave to workers who did not have it and extend paid leave for workers who only got a few days.”

If you are not granted paid leave, talk with your employer about the following options:

  • Adjusted work hours.
  • Condensed schedules.
  • Telecommunicating options.

This may give you the flexibility you need to care for your loved one, and continue your job.

Take Extra Precaution for Loved Ones with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Are you caring for a loved one with dementia? While this disease does not increase risk for COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors may worsen one’s chances of illness.

People living with dementia may need extra support to remember important hygienic practices, like bathing. Help your loved one with the recommended precautions to prevent illness:

  • Demonstrate how to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
  • Place signs in the bathroom to remind your loved one to wash their hands.
  • Remind them to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

Additional Resources

The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented, constantly changing situation. As the situation continues to unfold, we encourage our audiences to stay as informed as possible. Check out the following family caregiver resources for help.

Make the Most of These Moments

In times of uncertainty, it’s critical for us to make the most of the small moments we have with the people we love. That’s why we created Busch’s Essential Guide to Meaningful Conversation. Packed with 25+ conversation-starting questions, you’ll be sure to dive into deeper discussions with close family members and friends—whether near or far.

Download our essential guide to meaningful conversation


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