COVID-19: Advice for Caregivers of Older Adults

March 24, 2020

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the novel coronavirus pandemic may be of particular concern for adults age 65 and older.

Those of us who care for, and give care to, people in that higher-risk population are likely wondering how to help keep them healthy. What if chronic medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, are in the mix? What if Dad lives in another county, or Nana in another state?

Below are concrete steps that caregivers of older adults can take to reduce infection risk for their loved ones:

  1. Stay up to date with the latest news from the CDC.
  2. Check in with area agencies on aging – nonprofit organizations that help older adults – for information on local community support.
    • In Tucson: The Pima Council on Aging has a helpline (520-790-7262) and an online directory to guide you to available resources. 
    • Elsewhere: Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration of Aging that connects you to nationwide services for older adults and their families. 
  3. Minimize trips to the store by having adequate food, cleaning, and hygiene supplies and medication on hand.
  4. If prescriptions are time limited or controlled, contact insurance providers or order by mail to ensure sufficient supply.
  5. Get detailed information on your dependent’s medical conditions.
    • Consider what changes in care may be required in the event of changes in your dependent’s physical, emotional, or cognitive functioning.
    • Get familiar with medications and medical supplies.
  6. Communicate with your caregiving community about your loved one’s current status and what you may need help with at this time.
    • In addition to emails and calls, consider phone or web apps that can expedite communication, such as requests for food delivery, health updates, and well-wishes that help reduce social isolation.
  7. Strategize backup care – family members, friends, community members, care agencies – in case you become sick or need additional help.
  8. Reconsider attending upcoming events.
    • Don’t visit your older loved one if you or anyone in your household is sick.
    • Reschedule visits from the grandchildren for after the pandemic lifts.
    • Although we may have to keep physical distance, you can – and should – still stay emotionally close. Consider “televisits” by phone, FaceTime, Skype, etc.
  9. Senior communities are advised to suspend all medically unnecessary visits.
    • Communicate with and closely monitor updates from assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
    • Ask about the facility’s infection plans.
  10. Be aware of coronavirus-related scams, phony websites, and online phishing schemes. The AARP offers a list of phishing warning signs.

And a final tip: With the daily, extraordinary challenges of caring for our loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to be especially mindful of self-care. Meditation, YouTube yoga, a quick walk, or even just 15 minutes of rest in the shade can aid in our own strength and resilience.