Pandemic and Elderly Caregivers

With no sign of a vaccine being out in the market in the next six months, it is important to take care of yourself when things are opening up and social interaction is inevitable. More important is how one should manage with elderly people at home where in a member or two of the family goes out for work and comes back in the evening. With the pandemic forcing most home health aids and adult day care centers to suspend or limit their services, the burden of taking care of the elderly has fallen on home based caregivers causing potential burnout. Many families with elderly have taken the role of full time caregivers for the first time without access to support and training needed to perform clinical tasks such as medication management, lifting – shifting, etc. The pandemic has complicated the role of a family caregiver and the mentioned points are in support of the silent and diligent support they are giving for their loved ones.
– Take care of yourself – Hand washing, social distancing, wearing mask, avoiding crowded areas, not touching face frequently in public are some of the known rules which is being pushed by all media and the medical fraternity. While this is at most important, taking care of oneself by exercising, eating the right food (if possible, home cooked), are also important. Limiting travel, postponing unnecessary visits to doctors are also important aspects to be kept in mind during these times. Go out only when necessary.

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– Practicing social distancing but not social isolation – An important way to lower the risk of catching COVID-19 is to limit the number of persons visiting the family with elders. This may sometimes be tough as older people tend to cherish the time spent with family and friends. The idea is to keep the elders safe but not isolate them socially.

– Using technology to stay connected – The above-mentioned issue has its own challenges of how to be socially involved without meeting anyone. Technology paves the way. It helps elders lead a less lonely life during pandemic. Staying connected with family and friends through phone, video calling, voice chat, social media does wonders to elderly psychological health. Of course, this comes with its own challenges. Teaching elderly the use of technology is the first step which is the hardest. Believe me, once they get hooked to it, there is no looking back. I have seen many elderly making best use of social media not only for recreational purpose but also meaningfully like taking classes, learning a new hobby/skill, etc. A lot of telemedicine initiatives have been started during this pandemic time which help people in getting doctor’s advice sitting at home through video conferencing.

– Keeping elders involved : Involving the elderly population in meaningful homebound activity like gardening, arranging the house (light work), organizing, etc., can keep them occupied. Ask them to demonstrate cooking their favorite dish or share their favorite song.

– Plan ahead : Do small forward planning by :

o Keeping an emergency contact number for your older adults just incase they need to reach out in case you are not available at that time.
o Keeping good stock of essentials. This includes food items, grocery, medical supplies, etc.
o Staying relevant: This does not mean that you read and believe anything written in the social media. Read information from authentic sources – Government Departments, WHO, CDC,etc about the disease and how to take precautions against it.

– Keep a positive frame of mind: Better said than done, this needs no explanation as a healthy mind is a source of not only inspiration but also tackling a negative situation which has struck the world. Keep in mind, its not happening with you alone. Every one and anyone is affected and trying to come out of it.

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