The arrival of the new coronavirus has changed daily life in profound ways, and will continue to do so for at least some time to come. Families are adjusting to social distancing in the form of school closures and working remotely. This time can be particularly challenging for family caregivers. You may be concerned about your loved one contracting the virus. You may be experiencing the loss of outside support, or you may find that you’re unable to visit a loved one living in a care facility.
Consider reaching out to the Caregiver Action Network’s free Caregiver Help Desk, which is staffed by caregiving experts who can provide information, answer questions, and link you to resources to help you navigate caregiving challenges during this difficult time. Caregiving experts are available 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM ET. Reach out to them by phone, email or live chat at Caregiver Help Desk.
While no one can know exactly how this situation will play out over the coming weeks and months, here are some tips:
- We are all hearing a flood of sometimes-contradictory information about how to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible, and what to do if we do become ill. Rely on the guidelines of the CDC, available through this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
- Keep in contact with your loved one’s medical practitioner(s). Call ahead to reconfirm any existing medical appointments. Some practitioners now have telemedicine capabilities, and many insurance providers, as well as Medicare, have expanded coverage to include telemedicine.
- Practitioners may also have new guidelines about how and when you should contact them if you or your loved one develop symptoms of the coronavirus (such as fever, cough and sore throat) or if you may have been exposed to someone with those symptoms. If this happens, call your practitioner first, before going to their office or the emergency room.
- Keep a list of your loved one’s medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and medical supplies. Consider refilling prescriptions and purchasing supplies to ensure you have enough to last several weeks. Many pharmacies are waiving fees for home delivery, so check with your pharmacy to see if that is an option.
- Grocery stores are also expanding delivery service. Try to order before you’re completely out of items, as delivery may take longer than usual.
- If your loved one is in senior living, contact the facility as many have barred visitors. If so, request that staff provide regular updates on how your loved one is doing.
- Get creative in finding ways to stay in touch with family and friends. Set up regular phone calls, FaceTime or Skype. Watch a TV show, sing a song or exercise “together” by phone or video. Have the kids serenade Grandma from outside or read a book with her virtually.
- Self-care is more important than ever. Try to stick to a routine of sleep, exercise and healthy eating, but don’t beat yourself up if the demands of caregiving coupled with social distancing make it difficult to do so. Note that support groups may not be meeting in person during this time, so check first. Investigate online support groups.