The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the daily routines of millions of Americans. It's affected every part of life, from work to school to caring for loved ones. Social distancing and health concerns can make it hard for caregivers to be there in person. But no matter your situation, there are ways to help during this crisis and beyond.
If you're caregiving from a distance during COVID-19, keep these tips in mind.
Get tech support
If you can't be there in person, a range of new tech tools let you socialize virtually. From Zoom calls to Netflix Party movie nights, there are plenty of ways to stay connected.
Even so, your loved one (particularly if they're elderly) may need extra help setting up or learning to use a videoconferencing app. So if you can't go into their home, call for tech support.
For example, a service called Teeniors Opens in new window provides one-on-one coaching from tech-savvy teenagers and young adults. They can help with everything from online apps like Skype and Zoom to using smartphone and other personal technology devices.
Use telemedicine when possible
Telemedicine was already a growing trend before COVID-19, but the pandemic has caused more doctors and clinics to meet with patients virtually. Many routine visits can be handled by video chat, so find out if your loved one's health providers offer the service. If so, see if they can shift their medical appointments or therapy sessions online.
Some situations will still require an in-person doctor visit, of course. But telemedicine can help save time, reduce your loved one's risk of infection, and possibly save money.
Stay safe with home health aides
If your loved one is receiving care at home from health aides, it's important to talk with the providers to see what steps they're taking to keep people safe during COVID-19.
For example, Dallas-based AccentCare is training their caregivers on proper hand-washing techniques and using personal protective equipment (PPE). They're also having caregivers check their temperatures each day, and check in with patients by phone before appointments, to screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
Different health care agencies have their own plans and protocols, but a couple basics to keep in mind:
- Use telehealth if you can. Unless your loved one requires in-person care, you might be able to meet their needs via video chat or telehealth services. Ask your home health aides about the right level of support.
- Wear masks. Ask everyone to wear clean protective face masks for every in-person visit with home health aides — or anyone else who visits your loved one's home. If you can't get medical-grade face masks, even simple cloth masks can help prevent infection.
Think twice before removing your loved one from a facility
Reports of high COVID-19 infection rates at nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities have left many people concerned about residents' health. You might even want to move your loved one out of such a facility to care for them at home.
Before you do so, AARP Opens in new window recommends that you consider several questions carefully. Among them:
- What does your loved one want to do?
- Can you provide the level of care they need in your home?
- Can you get your loved one readmitted to their facility after the crisis passes?
There are sometimes no easy answers. If you're confident that you can provide the right kind of care for your loved one — and you have the time and resources to do so — it might be a good opportunity to remove them from their care facility.
But if your loved one is happy living where they are — and they're receiving good care — the stress or risk of moving them out might be bad for their health. If the facility is maintaining proper precautions, staying in their current living situation might be the right choice.