Careful planning, focusing on mental health and enforcing infection prevention practices are critical for caregivers in the era of COVID-19.
Deborah Dunn, national president of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, offers this advice:
– Try to get 90-day supplies of prescriptions; use a pharmacy with a drive-through or delivery service.
– Review home care supplies such as distilled water for CPAP machines, incontinence garments, and supplies for chronic conditions such as diabetes or lung disease.
– Find out if doctors are doing telemedicine visits. And, if so, how.
– Learn what may still require in-person medical visits and how those are conducted, such as having a test done or blood drawn.
– Talk to health care providers about plans or strategies to monitor chronic conditions.
– Coordinate ongoing home health care visits and learn the infection prevention steps. Ask about virtual visits.
– Reinforce infection protection practices like social distancing and proper hand-washing.
– Discuss health care system preference if hospitalization becomes necessary.
– Keep key documents, such as medical histories, medical information release forms and advance directives, easily accessible for an emergency. Better yet, have everything on a USB flash drive that can be easily transported and updated.
– Help devise a plan for you both to stay healthy that includes exercise, nutrition, hydration and adequate sleep.
– Limit news intake about the coronavirus to an hour or two a day. Continuous news updates appear to cause more anxiety.
– Focus on joy and gratitude; provide hope and assurances that "this too shall pass" and "we are in this together."
– Encourage hobbies such as sewing, gardening or puzzles, and find ways to ease stress such as meditation or prayer. Provide access to mental health support if needed.
– Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, past achievements and other happy occasions or memories.
When your loved one lives separately:
– Maintain physical distancing; avoid or minimize physical contact.
– If you need to have physical contact, wash hands and wear a mask and gloves.
– Deliver groceries, prescriptions and other supplies; provide surprise, cheerful "care packages."
– Make sure your phone number and those of other emergency helpers are handy.
– Set a time when to regularly connect by phone or video call; encourage your loved one to reach out and provide support to others.
– Reinforce the importance of staying home, avoiding unnecessary close contact with others and washing hands after touching outside items such as deliveries and mail.
Find advice about handling the new challenges of caregiving during COVID-19.
Editor's note: Because of the rapidly evolving events surrounding the coronavirus, the facts and advice presented in this story may have changed since publication. Visit Heart.org for the latest coverage, and check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials for the most recent guidance.
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