When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020, one of the first bits of information authorities shared with the public concerned senior citizens.
Along with people with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems, those who are aged 60 and over were warned to be careful because their risk of contracting the disease and dying from it is much higher. The information turned out to be accurate.
As of June 2020, nursing home residents accounted for more than 50,000 of the 116,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. That figure represents over 40 percent of all US COVID-19 fatalities, which is incredibly alarming for senior citizens and their families alike.
While nursing homes are the ones badly hit, seniors availing of home care services are just as vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Direct Care Worker (DCW) certified caregivers that take care of their needs are aware that they must take extra precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection among their wards.
In-home caregivers have always practiced proper hygiene long before COVID-19. However, with the advent of the pandemic, In-home caregivers had to intensify their hygienic practices. They have, for example, taken to washing or sanitizing their hands a lot more frequently than before.
Home care providers also need to make sure that their charge’s entire household is clean and disinfected on a regular basis. When doing the housecleaning, they must give special attention to frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, TV remotes, light switches, toilet and faucet handles, and cabinets.
Before the pandemic, wearing facemasks was optional among in-home caregivers. Today, facemasks have become mandatory for in-home caregivers, regardless of the overall state of health of their elderly patients.
From the very start, one of the most crucial aspects of COVID-19 safety has been social distancing. Seniors receiving home care are in a much better position to follow social distancing protocols.
For one, their face-to-face interactions tend to be limited to their caregiver and their loved ones. There are no fellow nursing home residents to come into contact with, and certainly, no multiple nursing home staff members taking care of their needs.
For another, their in-house caregiver can take care of their grocery-shopping, medication runs, and bill paying and banking needs. Their need to go out and do the above things is reduced, and so is their risk of COVID-19 infection.
Preventing Social Isolation
However, one huge downside of strict social distancing among the elderly is that they could develop feelings of social isolation. Most seniors who choose home care do so to avoid loneliness, but physical distancing protocols can bring on those feelings. Stay-at-home orders, after all, can limit the ability of loved ones to drop by for a visit.
With the feelings of social isolation that the pandemic is inducing among our elderly loved ones in home care, we can’t help but be concerned about the negative impact they could have not only on their mental health, but also on their immunity.
Then again, we can take comfort in the fact that in-house caregivers and their wards’ loved ones and friends can work together to prevent feelings of isolation from ever coming up.
For example, they can use technology to help senior patients maintain links with friends and family. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, and communications apps like Zoom have proven to be handy during this pandemic. Teaching the elderly to use technology to communicate with the people closest to their hearts will help them feel more involved and less lonely in the time of COVID-19.
In-home caregivers should also consider encouraging their elderly wards to say hello to the neighbors or even the mail carrier from time to time. They may not be friends or family but making that kind of contact fosters a sense of connectedness to other humans just the same.
Then again, as long as they take special precautionary measures, elderly patients can always go out if they ask, and their physical condition allows it. Of course, the caregiver must take steps to ensure their charge is wearing a facemask, has hand sanitizer at the ready, and won’t touch their face the whole time they’re out, among other things.
States are already easing stay-at-home rules, and business establishments are slowly opening to the public. Still, science has not yet found a vaccine or cure for COVID-19. We are now living in the new normal, and senior citizens in-home care—and the people who take care of them—must follow its rules much more closely than everyone else.
Sarah Keller is the Content Marketing Strategist of A To Z Home Care, a team of professional home care providers based in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in long-term care for your loved ones. She enjoys riding horses and camping with her friends and family in her spare time.