COVID-19 and Caregiving

In Canada, it is estimated that 25% of Canadians are providing some level of informal, unpaid care to a family member or friend. When you add parental and professional caregiving roles, the number of caregivers in our country are astronomical. As a society, we depend on formal and informal caregivers to provide mental, emotional, physical, and medical support to our community’s aging populations, as well as to those who are sick or have disabilities. Every caregiving situation poses different challenges on caregivers, especially in times where a novel illness is spreading and there are so many unknowns. Safely meeting your loved one’s health and medical needs without spreading covid-19 is clearly of critical importance. But with social isolation and loneliness already a major concern for seniors and many others, we must also consider how we can help meet mental and emotional needs when facilities are on full lockdown, social activities are being cancelled, and everyone is being advised to stay home. These are complex issues, but here are some tips on how to preserve your loved one’s mental, emotional, and physical health during these unprecedented times:
Mental and Emotional Needs:
  • Get in touch with family members and friends to set up a schedule of daily telephone check-ins with your loved one. These check-in conversations don’t have to be long, but providing social contact and emotional support on a daily basis can go a long way in providing much needed emotional comfort and connection.
  • Set up virtual visits with grandchildren, friends, and other relatives over Skype, Facetime or other technology apps. Seeing someone’s smiling face, even it’s only for a very short while can truly uplift spirits.
  • Provide opportunities for physical activity. If still able to get out for walks, that is ideal. If not, provide yoga or light exercise videos or channels (i.e. youtube), and suggest other ways to stay physically active on their own.
  • Set your loved one up with favourite activities. If they enjoy crafts, knitting, scrapbooking, reading, puzzles, games, etc. provide them with whatever they need to engage in these activities.
  • If they have internet access, help find online support groups, games and other online activities to keep them mentally active.
  • If your loved one is living in a group setting, find out if it’s possible to set up a buddy system where they can have regular contact with another healthy resident (same person all of the time).
Beyond the recommended measures of hand washing and sanitizing, there is much that can be done to keep your loved one physically and medically safe while social distancing measures are in effect, including:
  • Health Care:
    • As much as possible, keep your loved one out of crowded doctor’s offices and hospitals where sick people are likely to be. Talk to the doctor over the phone, and only go in person when it is medically warranted. Call a local or provincial telehealth line before deciding to go.
    • If medical appointments are required, keep your loved one at a safe distance from other patients.
    • If health care workers are providing regular care in your loved one’s home, have conversations with them about safety practices. Teach your loved one to ask their workers to wash their hands, change their gloves, and only provide care when they are healthy.
  • Get Organized:
    • Talk to the doctor or pharmacist about getting extra medication and medical supplies
    • Have enough food on hand for a couple of weeks
    • Have food and medication delivered and remain at a safe distance during deliveries
    • Re-schedule non-urgent appointments
  • Plan for Emergencies
    • Set up a plan for who will take care of your loved one if you get sick
    • Set up a plan for what will happen if your loved one gets sick
    • Know how to monitor symptoms and when to get medical assistance
    • Prepare an emergency folder with the following information in case emergency care is needed:
  • Health card
  • Health insurance cards
  • Doctors’ names and contact numbers
  • Pharmacy name and phone number
  • Medical insurance (name of company, contact person, and phone number)
  • Health conditions
  • Current medication list
  • Telephone tree of emergency contacts (names of children, close friends, other relatives, secondary caregivers, etc.)
  • Plan for pet care, if applicable
In order to avoid becoming overwhelmed, take the time to set up a support system and plan for emergencies. You may be thinking, I don’t have time to do this, but taking the time to get organized will not only make you feel more confident as a caregiver but will also save you time and energy in the long run. You will no longer be wasting time worrying about how to handle certain situations.