Tips for Family Caregivers and COVID-19
At Caregiver Action Network, we’re family caregivers too, so we know: Caregivers are great at planning ahead and managing unexpected health crises, but with COVID-19 you may not have time to plan, or sort through the rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting available information. These tips can help keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible.
Follow the guidance of the CDC.
The CDC has put together a number of resources to answer specific questions and address concerns you may have. They have also formulated this guidance for caring for someone sick at home. The CDC's current recommendations to help ensure everyone’s health and safety, include:
- Avoid large crowds. Currently, the CDC is recommending no public gatherings exceeding 10 participants.
- Avoid non-essential travel.
Do you participate in a support group? Many places, such as churches and community centers, have suspended meetings and events with outside groups. Before you go, call ahead to see if the group is still meeting as scheduled.
Make sure you have enough of your loved one’s medical supplies and medications for an extended period.
Check to see if your loved one's medications are part of a patient assistance program
During this time, many pharmaceutical companies are expanding their patient support programs to help eligible unemployed patients in the U.S. who have lost their health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These expanded programs offer access to many prescription medications for free.
Monitor the health of your loved one, and keep in touch with their medical team
Many health care plans and practices have their own guidelines for how and when they should be contacted about possible COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. Call your loved one’s primary care doctor and ask how they want you to proceed.
Only go to the Emergency Room for emergencies
If you suspect that you or your loved one are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor.
Know your own risk factors
Do you have a chronic condition? Are you immunosuppressed? Many caregivers themselves have health issues, so don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger.
Be aware of any changes to visitation policies
Many hospitals and emergency rooms no longer allow visitors, including family caregivers, in treatment areas or patient rooms. In a situation where you are not allowed to be with your loved one in the hospital or emergency room, discuss a strategy with staff that will allow you to get updates on your loved one. Many skilled nursing and assisted living facilities have made changes to their visitation policies. Check to see if outside visitors are allowed before making a trip.
Call ahead before going to some medical appointments
To minimize the risk of exposure, many healthcare facilities are handling some appointments with telemedicine. Medicare and other insurance providers have expanded coverage to now include telemedicine. Call your loved one’s healthcare provider in advance of the appointment to see if the appointment can be held via telemedicine.
Prepare for a possible quarantine
If your loved one has been exposed to COVID-19 or has developed symptoms and/or tested positive for the virus, you will need to manage a 14-day quarantine.
- Can your loved one stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home? They should also use a separate bathroom, if available.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as: dishes, towels, and bedding
- Clean all surfaces that are touched often. These include: counters, tabletops, and doorknobs. Use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.
Self-care is Important:
With the stress and anxiety around COVID-19, ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. Check our our 10 Tips for Family Caregivers as well as the screener to help you identify and address emerging mental health issues.
Crisis Symptom Reporting Guide
Use this guide to prepare for a call with emergency medical services, a doctor or other medical professional.
Make sure you have an accurate, up-to-date list of your loved one’s medications, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications handy.
These guides will help you be clear and concise when talking with your loved one’s medical team – and hopefully will help them to really hear what you are saying.
Patient File Checklist
One important thing you can do, is maintain an updated and comprehensive file of information about your loved one’s health. This can be done in a variety of ways including, paper and electronic solutions or some combination of both. Mobile health apps also help to keep you and your loved one’s patient file in the palm of your hand.
Caregiver Action Network, along with the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, American Association of Caregiving Youth, the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center, Caring Across Generations, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the Family Caregiver Alliance, and the National Alliance for Caregiving urge government, community, and religious leaders to please remember the challenges facing family caregivers as this public health crisis continues to unfold. Understanding the role family caregivers of all ages play and the challenges they face will be key to effectively navigating this pandemic. Click here to read the full statement.