Caregiving During the COVID-19 Crisis: What Are the Changes We Need to Make?

Family caregivers always have a good deal of stress on their plates.

Given that the COVID-19 virus is known to disproportionately affect those over the age of 65, people caring for aging parents or other loved ones at home now have even more to worry about.

Read on to find out about what changes should be made around the house to reduce loved ones’ chances of getting sick while simultaneously ensuring an acceptable quality of living.


Follow CDC Recommendations

By now, just about all Americans have likely heard about the importance of frequent hand washing, covering coughs, and avoiding unnecessary social contact.

For family caregivers, these basic recommendations may not go far enough, but they still need to be followed assiduously.

Any time home caregivers leave to run errands or perform other necessary duties, they should immediately wash their hands upon returning home and should disinfect any surfaces they had to touch on the way in.

When in doubt about what steps are appropriate, visit to see how professional caregiving facilities are ensuring the ongoing health of their residents.


Managing Underlying Health Conditions

Those with chronic health conditions are also at higher risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Unfortunately, patients with chronic health conditions also require a higher level of care than elderly loved ones who are otherwise healthy.

Caregivers should ask if medical providers can schedule telehealth appointments for ongoing necessary care and refill prescription orders over the phone.

When picking up prescriptions, find a pharmacy with a drive-through pickup window, or ask if the pharmacy can deliver the medications.


Monitor for Symptoms

Family caregivers should monitor themselves and their charges for symptoms of COVID-19.

Early symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • and sore throat

Remember that not everyone who contracts COVID-19 will become seriously ill. There have even been some reported cases of patients testing positive for the disease when the only symptoms they experienced were profound loss of smell and taste.

When in doubt, caregivers should err on the side of caution and call their doctors to ask about even minor symptoms.

If family caregivers become sick, they’ll need to distance themselves from their charges and find someone else to provide direct care.

That may mean enlisting the help of another family member or moving a loved one temporarily to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

If the person receiving care has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, caregivers should look for signs of increased confusion.

A rapid increase in confusion is a common symptom of illness in dementia sufferers.

Caregivers should call the person’s healthcare provider immediately to ask for recommendations.


Social Distance Without Creating a Sense of Isolation

Social distancing can be hard on aging loved ones who rely on their families, friends, congregations, and other social groups for love and support.

For those at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and for their caregivers, social distancing is an absolute must, though.

Caregivers can make provisions like setting up a scheduled phone or video calls with grandchildren, attending worship services online or over the phone, and sticking to outings that present only minimal risks like going for a walk in an empty park or heading out for a drive.


Temperature Check Home Care Employees

There are some forms of in-home care that elderly residents can’t get online.

If a home nurse or another care provider must enter the home, make sure he or she performs a temperature check before entering and ask if the person has been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Even if the nurse or professional caregiver is fever-free and has no known contacts, he or she still needs to wear a mask and follow other CDC guidance.


Disinfect Surfaces Frequently

Whether professional caregivers are entering the home or not, caregivers should be cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the home regularly.

This includes doorknobs, sink and toilet handle, countertops, refrigerator and cabinet doors, and any other solid surfaces that could host the virus.

COVID-19 can survive for hours on hard surfaces, so frequent disinfection is the best way to limit the spread of the disease via this channel.


Redirect from Problematic Behaviors

Dementia patients often exhibit problematic behaviors like aggression, anxiety, and wandering even on the best of days.

The added stress of social isolation and facing down a global pandemic can push even those who are ordinarily agreeable to begin exhibiting disruptive behaviors.

Caregivers should respond with patience, flexibility, and compassion, even if they’re feeling stressed themselves.

Remember that dementia sufferers can pick up on their caregivers’ anxiousness, so it’s important to take the time to calm down before potentially stressful interactions.

The best way to deal with problematic behaviors is to redirect the dementia sufferer.

Try distracting the charge with a fun activity or a favorite snack, or moving to a different area of the home.


Stick to a Routine

Routine is crucial for dementia sufferers, especially when it comes to avoiding or mitigating problematic behaviors.

Write out a daily schedule and stick to the same one every day.

It’s also a good idea to keep a log of disruptive behaviors and what is happening when they occur.

This can help caregivers get a better idea of what is causing their loved ones so much agitation so they can avoid exposure in the future.


The Bottom Line

Family caregivers have a lot on their plates right now.

Many are balancing work-from-home jobs with providing constant care and distractions for aging parents or other loved ones, and some are even handling kids home from school added into the mix.

Caregivers should be patient with their loved ones, but it’s also important for them to exercise some self-compassion.

If a family caregiver gets sick, it’s vitally important to have a plan in place for how his or her charge will receive the level of care required.

This may mean hiring a home care aide, or, ideally, finding a long-term or respite care facility that can help.

Just make sure the facility has taken all appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.