In what seemed like an instant, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. In addition to completely changing the way we shop, work and interact with others – just to name a few – it has also thrust many into a role they’ve never experienced before: caregiver.
Now, almost any American with a loved one in a high risk category has seemingly become an unpaid caregiver. And high risk doesn’t just include people over the age of 65. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorizes anyone, no matter their age, with serious underlying medical conditions at higher risk for severe illness. Other risk factors include asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, serious heart conditions, chronic kidney disease being treated with dialysis, severe obesity, liver disease and anyone who is immunocompromised.
In many of these cases, adult children are more involved in their parents’ lives to help mitigate some of the risk and keep their loved ones safe and healthy. They’re taking on a lot of household responsibilities such as grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, disinfecting the household (including anything that comes in from the outside), cooking or picking up takeout and more.
While their loved ones may be physically capable of performing these tasks on their own, it’s simply not worth the risk of infection. Many people are also looking for new ways to help parents or elderly loved ones manage their medication schedule from a distance, such as an automatic pill dispenser or regular calls and alarm reminders.
COVID-19 has introduced the masses to the realities of caregiving, which is an incredibly difficult role to dive into – especially when unprepared.
For those of you who have found yourself in a caregiving role as a result of COVID-19, you’re not alone. It may seem like foreign territory, but there are a number of resources at your disposal to help navigate your new responsibilities. As a starting point, review the CDC’s list of measures to take to reduce the risk of you or your loved one getting sick.
- Continue medications and do not change a treatment plan without talking to a doctor
- Have at least a two-week supply of prescription and non-prescription medications. Talk to a healthcare provider, insurer and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than two weeks) of prescription medications, if possible, to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
- Talk to a healthcare provider to confirm that vaccinations are up-to-date. People older than 65 years, and those with many underlying conditions, are recommended to receive vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease.
- Do not delay getting emergency care for underlying conditions because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect patients from being exposed to COVID-19 if care is necessary for underlying condition(s).
- Call a healthcare provider with any concerns about underlying medical conditions or if you or your loved one gets sick and may have COVID-19. Call 911 for emergency help.
Once you’ve educated yourself on the risks and understand the measures required to prevent infection, it’s important to come up with a game plan. Start by planning your meals for at least two weeks to limit trips to the grocery store. For anything non-essential, consider ordering online and leaving the packages in a secluded area for at least three days before opening. Whenever you leave the house, make sure to wear gloves and a mask that covers both your nose and mouth. Finally, make sure to wash hands frequently.
The more you know about the risks, the more prepared you’ll be to take on this new role.