It has almost been a year since the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccines are available and COVID-19 positivity rates are no lower in the State of Hawaii, the possibility of infection is still out there.
Your elderly parent is younger than 75-years-old, and they do not fall within the current vaccination phase. They still work and occasionally see friends or extended family.
And then it happens - they start coughing, feeling feverish and looking ill. You take them to their PCP when you find out they have COVID-19.
Does this sound like you?
While all age groups can contract the disease, older people, especially those over 80, are at a much higher risk of having a severe case or dying. Remember that contracting COVID-19, even for someone over 80, is not a death sentence. This pandemic is a scary situation, but here is what to do and what to expect if your aging parent is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Living with a Parent with COVID-19
If you live with your aging parent(s) with COVID-19, you need to take precautions to ensure you or other household members do not contract COVID-19 too. Here are tips on how you can assist your parent(s) at home:
Follow Instructions from the Doctor
Your parent(s) PCP most likely provided instruction on how to care for your loved one. The instructions commonly include isolation, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and designating a bathroom. Be sure to follow their instructions closely.
Create a Safe Environment for Your Loved One
It’s important that you create a designated space for your parent(s). This space, if possible, should include a separate bed and bath, and all the amenities that they may need. Try your best to limit contact between your parent(s) and other household members. Remember to maintain proper social distance guidelines to help reduce the potential spread of the virus.
Designate a Family Caregiver
Designate one family member to provide direct care for your sick parent(s). The designated caregiver should be someone who is healthy and in a low-risk category for COVID-19. They should be the only person to have direct contact with your parent(s) to help with activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, grooming, feeding, etc. Although it may seem unnatural, it is important that the caregiver wears clean PPE for each interaction.
Although there should be one designated caregiver to provide direct contact, there should be other family members that help with meal preparation, grocery shopping, etc. to prevent caregiver burnout. Each household member will have their part in keeping the home safe to prevent further sickness or stress.
Disinfect the Home
Because COVID-19 is within your home, it is important to sanitize and disinfect surfaces often. Even though your parent(s) have been isolated to a specific room, the virus can survive on surfaces or in the air for a few hours. Remember to disinfect tables, door knobs, light switches, countertops, and open windows if possible.
Wash Your Hands Often
Each person in the household, whether they provide direct or indirect care, should wash their hands frequently. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and scrub between your fingers and even around your nails. It is also important to wash your hands before eating or touching your face.
Caring for a Parent with COVID-19 from Afar
Some of us may live away from our parents and thus unable to provide direct care. If your loved one contracts COVID-19 and you aren’t able to physically be present, there are other ways to provide care.
Hire a Professional Caregiver
To ensure that your parent(s) receive the proper care and attention that they need to recover, we recommend hiring a professional caregiver. The caregiver can help nurse your loved one(s) back to health. They can provide personal care and homemaking services such as laundry, cleaning, meals preparation, companionship, etc.
At Kupuna Care Hawaii, all of our caregivers are screened for COVID-19. With a professional caregiver in their home, you can feel more at peace knowing that your parent is not alone and is receiving the care they need.
Keep in Touch
Although you aren’t physically present, you can still be involved with their care. Try to contact your parents is they are feeling well enough for a call or video chat. Sometimes hearing a familiar voice may uplift their spirits while they are in the process of recovery. We also recommend that you keep in contact with the rest of your family and hold family meetings during this time.
Don't Punish Yourself With Guilt
Guilt plays a heavy role in our lives as an adult child to aging parents. Please try not to entertain these thoughts! Dealing with COVID-19 is difficult and this may be a very stressful time but try to focus on what you can do to be helpful rather than what you cannot do.