The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in the United States. With millions of cases, our country is the most affected region in the world. According to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths have been adults 65 years of age and older. These statistics don’t lie – older adults are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from a coronavirus infection. Because of this, it’s imperative for family, friends, and other people to care for their elders and to take extra precautions when in close contact with older adults.
Elder care assistants and caregivers for elders should take adequate protection measures when working with older adults. Unfortunately, this task is not without challenges, particularly for the caregivers who work in close proximity to the patients. Everyone who works close to an older adult should be careful and know specifically how to do it is very important. How do we care for our senior parents and grandparents? How do we make sure they are not infected with this terrible new virus strain? Let’s try to answer these questions:
Start by limiting your own risk for the new coronavirus strain
The best way to help your grandparents or parents against COVID19 is to make sure you don’t have it. After all, the new coronavirus that causes COVID19 is extremely contagious. It’s easily transmitted from person to person via minuscule respiratory droplets. To avoid contamination, everyone, including you, should take adequate precautions. Don’t venture out in public settings, especially indoor areas where there are a lot of people. This is particularly important for elder care assistants who often work indoors, where many people are present.
Simple precautions, like being aware of the virus and its risks, are very important. Don’t expose yourself to people who are sick and don’t attend gatherings, concerts or other types of meetings. Here are other safety precautions, as suggested by doctors and other healthcare professionals:
- wash your hands frequently, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds – the old fashioned soap and water can help you immensely against the new coronavirus; make sure to wash your hands before and after visiting your parents or grandparents; also wash your hands if you touched public surfaces, doorknobs, windows, and other items;
- avoid public settings, crowds, and other events – preferably, avoid all public settings; this includes public transport, crowded supermarkets, conferences, and any type of meeting; if you do need to attend this type of gathering, make sure you keep your high-risk elderly loved ones safe when in contact; try to maintain a 6-foot safety distance when visiting your parents or grandparents; wear a face covering to prevent further exposure;
- disinfect and clean surfaces regularly – do this both in your home and the home of the senior you go for a visit; focus on the kitchen countertops, tables, doorknobs; disinfect the medical equipment and the items often used by your elder loved ones, like handrails, walkers and canes;
Practice social distancing everywhere, but don’t forget the risks of isolation
Social distancing has become the buzzword associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone knows about it, and everyone should practice it. Social distancing is the main thing you will need to focus on if you want to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. It’s the way we keep at-risk individuals safe and healthy during this difficult period. Also, restricting and limiting in-person visitations is very important. However, social distancing, when implemented excessively and improperly, can cause social isolation. It’s important to know how to care for seniors while practicing social distancing, but without increasing the risk of psychological stress associated with isolation. There must be a healthy balance, but how can elder care assistants do it?
- use modern technology – virtual communication platforms are hugely beneficial during this period; they are the saving grace for caregivers for elders across the world; they preserve healthy human interaction in a virtual setting, which is perfect during the pandemic; although navigating through and using the new technology can be a little tricky for older people, they can be very helpful; make sure to provide them with the instructions they need, and assist them with the setup;
- schedule a virtual visitation – create a routine for you and your parents or grandparents; schedule a regular virtual meeting every week or every day; this can help you monitor their needs without relying on in-person interaction; you also enjoy better communication with your loved ones; it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones, even during the pandemic, and technology is what makes it possible;
- postpone unnecessary visitations – it’s perfectly normal to want to visit your grandparents or parents, but try to limit visitations; don’t visit too often in order to limit the risk of infecting them with the new coronavirus strain; limit their exposure to the virus or other germs; similarly, ask them to postpone doctor visitations or other interactions with other people;
- encourage seniors to keep in touch – encourage them to talk on virtual platforms to other people as well, like neighbors, friends, or extended family; seniors have their own social network and have to keep in touch with the people they care for, just like us; caregivers for elders should be able to assist elders set up the devices and software used for this type of communication;
- set up emergency contacts and speed dials – this is critically important for any senior citizen – try to identify a person who lives nearby or can come quickly to the senior if he or she needs it; this is important if you live far away and are not easily reachable; make sure you put the contact numbers in the speed dial on the phone; also, add the COVID-19 emergency helpline numbers to their speed dial function;