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Caregivers and coronavirus: what you need to know

Anyone can be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), but older adults and people with chronic health conditions, like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, appear to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from the virus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).That means both caregivers and the ones they watch over must take unique precautions during this time. To help with simple steps that can make a big difference, JourneyCare staff members from across the organization share expert tips to keep caregivers and theirs loved ones healthy during COVID-19.

Remember to self-care

Many caregivers tend focus on the person they care for and shirk their own needs, but it is essential to care for yourself too.

“COVID-19 has created a multitude of stressors,” says Kimberly Thompson, JourneyCare Social Worker.

She suggests practicing self-care and staying connected while observing social distancing. Maintaining contact through phone calls, FaceTime or social media with friends, family and others, is vital to access support and reduce feelings of anxiety and loneness.

“JourneyCare patients are also able to stay connected with chaplains and social workers via FaceTime and TapCloud (a secure app used to help clinicians and patients to stay connected in real time),” shared Kimberly.

Caregivers can practice self-care by:

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating healthy
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a positive mindset

Take precautions

Along with practicing hand hygiene and social distancing, JourneyCare Quality Improvement Director Dawn Futris urges caregivers to follow everyday preventive actions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent spread of infection in the home:

  • Keep you and your loved one’s hands clean. Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (For people with dementia, consider placing handwashing signs and sanitizer around the house to remind them.)
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw tissue in the trash immediately.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces including doorknobs, faucets, light switches wheelchairs, walkers and other medical equipment daily, using a regular household detergent and water.
  • If someone in the household is potentially sick with COVID-19, surfaces can be disinfected with a bleach and water mix or 70 percent alcohol solution.

Caregivers have additional preparations and precautions they should take to ensure their loved ones always have the support they need:

  • Create a backup plan for if you get sick.
  • Practice social distancing and avoid crowded places, people who are sick, visitors and nonessential workers in your home.
  • In public, maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others when possible.
  • Choose telehealth options for nonemergency doctor visits. JourneyCare offers hospice and palliative care patients telehealth visits with an Advance Practice Nurse (APN) and other JourneyCare staff through TapCloud.

Keep your loved one active

Virtual tours
A great activity for caregivers to do with their loved one is embarking on a virtual tour, suggests Kathleen Recchia, JourneyCare Vice President of Patient and Family Support.

“There are several websites offering free tours right now,” she says. “Our volunteers can join patients and caregivers via Skype and take them on a guided tour to a museum, zoo or other places, if caregivers are unable to do virtual tours themselves.”

To learn how patients can sign up for virtual tours led by one of our volunteers, please call 224-770-2489.

Click ‘read more’ to see a list of virtual tours.  Read more

To learn how patients can sign up for virtual tours led by one of our volunteers, please call 224-770-2489.

Make art together
Creating art enhances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being for all ages.

“Caregivers can assist their loved one in making a card to send to a family member or friend,” says Megan Andriano, JourneyCare Grief Support and Integrative Care Services Manager. “If your loved one is not able to physically engage in making or writing in the card, have them guide you on how to decorate or what to write in the card on their behalf.”

Card ideas:

  • Simply write in a blank greeting card you already have.
  • Cut and paste (pieces of fabric, word or pictures from magazines) onto a greeting card to enhance it.
  • Fold a blank piece of paper and decorate with markers, paints, pencils, fabric or magazine pictures to make your own card.

Know symptoms of COVID-19

Watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and stay home and call your healthcare provider if you or your loved one develops a fever, new or worsening cough, or shortness of breath.

Seek medical attention immediately if you or your loved one develops emergency warning signs for COVID-19. Emergency warning signs include but are not limited to:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Other severe symptoms

JourneyCare continues to accept referrals and is doing our part to care for the community during COVID-19. Our admissions team is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 224-770-2489.