Caregiving During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted on July 22, 2021

The Coronavirus Pandemic has made caregiving a sensitive issue, especially if you have aging or disabled parents at home. When it comes to COVID-19, older people are more vulnerable to severe illness, especially those with preexisting medical conditions such as TBI or ABI, heart disease, diabetes, lung condition, or cancer. Such people are more likely to have a grave response to the infection than other age groups. 

Caregivers deal with the uncertainty and fear of harm amid the COVID-19 pandemic as they are terrified that they will somehow expose their older relatives to the virus and cause them to get sick. Some feel reluctant to allow home health aides into their homes, while others feel constrained in leaving their homes for fear of bringing the virus home with them. 

Being  a caregiver of an older relative, here's what you need to know to keep them safe and what to do if you do become infected with COVID-19. First and foremost, as a caregiver, you should take all precautions so that you do not become infected. 

Follow the basics to keep yourself well.

  • Wash hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds  before and after providing care, using the bathroom, preparing food, or touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid gatherings and public places unless and until absolutely necessary
  • If you cough or sneeze, do so in the bend of your elbow or into a disposable tissue.
  • Keep hands away from the face. 
  • Wipe frequently touched surfaces such as mobile phones, doorknobs, kitchen counters, mobility, and medical equipment used by your elderly loved ones.
  • Avoid hugging and kissing. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people. 
  • Sleep well for 7 to 9 hours to keep the immune system strong. 
  • Regularly get some fresh air and exercise.

Practice physical distancing, not social isolation:

Limit in-person visits to lower the risk of family members catching COVID-19. It can be difficult for older adults as they cherish family time and time spend with friends. Social isolation can cause depression and anxiety, especially in brain-injured victims. 

COVID-19 is spread through droplets; that's why hygiene is so important. If you have relatives coming over, do check their temperature when they enter. Have them wash their hands really well as soon as they come in and ask them if they had symptoms such as cough, cold, or fever in the last two weeks. If so, do not let them in. 

Use technology to stay connected:

Technology has made it easier for people to stay connected, especially those who are physically or mentally challenged after a brain injury. Assistive devices and mobility aids have made it possible for TBI victims to stay connected, feel involved and purposeful during the pandemic using smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Apps on these devices provide captions for older people with hearing challenges. There are also apps for people with visual and cognitive difficulties. 

Maintaining sanity during the pandemic.

For caregivers dealing with COVID-19 and their brain-injured loved one can be quite a challenge. Elderly folks may feel isolated, or have a heightened sense of anxiety due to the pandemic, as keeping up with a routine may be an uphill task. It is advisable to stay off news that may depress them and work on projects that bring back happy memories. Such as organizing old photos and memorabilia together, cooking a favorite family recipe, listen to favorite songs or movies together, or spend time playing your favorite indoor game. 

Minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection by communicating with doctors via telemedicine, over video, or e-mail rather than face-to-face. Avoid non-essential travel and decide on a plan in case a caregiver or anyone in the house develops symptoms. In case you, as the caregiver, contract COVID, designate someone nearby to care for them. Also, stock up on prescription drugs, food, pet supplies, and other essentials for emergency purposes.