Caring for aging parents is difficult at the best of times. The measures put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus have made caregiving incredibly tough. Stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and all the protective measures have effectively separated parents in care homes and hospitals from their children. Even parents receiving in home care have been distanced from the family, friends and social networks that normally sustain them. And as the strain on parents and loved ones builds, so does the pressure on caregivers in San Diego and everywhere around the country. We’ve found five ways for caregivers to support seniors and themselves during COVID-19, including the first National Daughterhood Circle on July 19th held by Daughterhood.org to bring caregivers from across the country together.
The Daughterhood Circle leaders recognized the need for continued support despite the shut-down. The San Diego Circle’s leaders, Christine Lee and Karen Van Dyke, have been ‘Zooming’ with other Daughterhood Circle leaders around the country to discuss ideas for mutual support and connection. Hosted by Anne Tumlinson, Founder of Daughterhood, these brainstorming sessions resulted in the first National Daughterhood Circle on Sunday July 19th. This meeting featured Dr. Erin Raskin, member of Daughterhood San Diego. Dr. Raskin taught the group about self-massage techniques that soothe the nervous system and provide the benefits of touch during this time of physical distancing. Circle members are looking forward to the next National Circle once it’s scheduled.
Did you know that Daughterhood is recognized nationally as a resource for caregivers? In the article “Advice for Family Caregivers In The Time Of COVID-19” on Forbes.com from April 2020, the author Howard Gleckman mentions Daughterhood.org among his excellent suggestions on logistics for family caregivers during the pandemic:
- “Plan ahead…for them, and for you:
- If you have been putting off preparing advance directives—for them and for you—please don’t delay any longer. Create a living will and, just as important, designate someone you trust to act as a medical power of attorney (sometimes called a health care proxy). Those receiving care can even create a do-not-hospitalize order if they prefer to die quietly at home (wherever that may be) and avoid the tumult of a hospital. It goes without saying that this is more important now than ever.
- Once you create these documents, give copies to the appropriate primary care doctor and your local hospital, and make sure they include them in your medical records. For those living in a care facility, get management these documents, along with a Medical Order for Life- Sustaining Care (MOLST).
- Planning ahead Pt II
- In the era of COVID-19, you need to make another plan: Who will care for your loved ones if you get sick? If you become COVID-19 positive, you won’t be able to provide hands-on care for your parents. “Family caregivers need to make a back-up plan,” says AARP’s Lynn Feinberg. Don’t wait. Once you get COVID-19, you’ll be in no shape to organize back-ups. Work this out with family and friends now.
- One way to do this is to take time to think about those who can support you and your loved ones, if COVID-19 hits your family. About a year ago, I wrote about a simple tool called Atlas CareMaps that can help you visualize who your supports are. This is a valuable exercise in the best of times, but critical now.
- Join a support group.
- Family caregiving is really hard, even in the best of times. Now, you may be caring for a parent who is in a nursing home and assisted living facility but who you have been unable to visit for weeks and you may not be able to visit for months more. You feel anxious and guilty.
- Don’t try to manage this by yourself. Find others in the same situation and talk about it. Share ideas and, perhaps, a virtual shoulder to cry on. You may be able to find local groups through faith communities, Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, local non-profits that support older adults, or disease-related groups. National groups such as daughterhood.org or AARP may be able to help as well.
- Caring for a loved one at home.
- If you are using home care workers, you need to protect them, your parents, and yourself from infection. If you hire through an agency, make sure it provides direct care workers with personal protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, and that it trains them how to use it. If you hire directly, you may have to provide that equipment yourself. But it is critical that aides have access to personal protection and use it properly.
- If your aides don’t feel well, encourage them to stay home. Pay them if they have no sick leave (few do). Remember, shift workers may be seeing other clients or working part-time in a nursing home. They are at high-risk of contracting coronavirus themselves and passing it on to others. Help keep them and yourself safe.
- If you are providing all the care yourself, you face different challenges. It is harder to ask a friend or neighbor to relieve you while you go shopping or take a break. But you can ask people to shop for you (even if it means leaving groceries outside your door). Friends or relatives also can provide you some virtual relief with Zoom, FaceTime, or even the telephone.
- Caring for a loved one living in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- You can’t visit but you can set up a phone call or video chat. Involve as many family members as possible, including grandchildren. The grandkids also can send cards and notes, perhaps with photos. But you also need to maintain a relationship with the staff. Check in regularly. Ask management about infection control. And ask if there is anything you can do to help—perhaps by donating equipment such as masks.”
If you’re looking for more great ideas from the intersection of caregiving, politics and finance, Howard Gleckman wrote a book called Caring for Our Parents and writes weekly on his Caring for Our Parents blog. And we’ll be sure to notify you when the next National (virtual) Daughterhood Circle is scheduled!