COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on people across the world. As the virus continues to spread, we’re seeing unprecedented changes being made in Australia that will significantly alter how we live our daily lives for the time being.
For caregivers, this may be a particularly tough time as we start to worry about the people in our care and how to best protect them while also looking after our own health. This article provides some guidance on best practices for caregiving throughout the pandemic. It should be used as a guide only. For more in-depth information and advice, refer to the Department of Health website.
General Guidelines for the Community
The Australian public is being asked to be mindful of several things at the moment. The main three things that we should bear in mind are as follows:
- Be Aware of Symptoms: The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness, and shortness of breath. If you or someone that you know has these symptoms, it is vital to contact your doctor or call the Coronavirus Health Information Linefor advice on 1800 020 080.
- Practice Good Hygiene: Practicing proper hygiene is instrumental in reducing the spread of the disease. Australians are being advised on the best methods of washing their hands, which can be found on the World Health Organisation website. If you are unable to get to a sink to wash your hands, hand sanitiser or antibacterial hand wipes are an alternative. In addition, we should try to sneeze into our elbow or a tissue instead of into our hands.
- Check on Our Mental Health: Most people will have never experienced an event like this in their lifetime. It is a stressful time, and many people are becoming anxious, frightened and concerned about what is to come. It’s important that we try to maintain our mental health during this time. The Beyond Blue website has some tips on looking after your mental health.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Carers & Vulnerable People
As carers, we can often feel isolated, as the role can be demanding and lonely. In this time, we may notice these feelings more. It’s important that we take steps to ensure these feelings do not overwhelm us, primarily by staying as connected to our networks and community as possible.
The same goes for the person in our care. They also need social interaction for their continued wellbeing. However, due to the social distancing regulations that have come into place, many activities and respite programs have been cancelled for the time being.
To maintain relationships and connections in this time, we should try to ensure that both ourselves and the person in our care are regularly communicating with others via phone calls, video calls and any other means.
In addition, if you use social media or can connect to the internet, you can look for the activities that you normally do. Many of them will have websites that will be currently offering free online activities that you can do, either by yourself or with your loved one. The Ageless Grace Australasia Facebook page will have short online sessions that you can use to get some exercise and feel better.
Self Isolation & Caregiving
Isolating With the Person in Your Care
If you are required to self-isolate, and you live with the person in your care, try to structure the day to include activities that you both enjoy. For example, you may set out a time for a daily walk, or block out an hour each day to spend time outdoors in the garden. You may also want to schedule times for voice or video calls with friends or family members. It’s important that you both stay entertained at home, so activities like listening to music, reading and watching TV can all be incorporated into the daily schedule.
In some cases, carers may be required to self-isolate and as such, are unable to see the person in their care. Perhaps, the person you care for is not living with you, or you have symptoms that would be dangerous to take to a vulnerable person. This may be a serious concern for someone in a caregiving role. However, there are still things that can be done to support the people that we care for.
Write out a care plan detailing the daily caregiving routine in the instance that others temporarily have to fulfil caring responsibilities. This will help to ensure consistency in the daily life of the person in our care. We can also stay in touch with the person in our care using phone calls or video calls through FaceTime or Skype. This is a good way to show the person that you care.
Managing Family and Friends
As a primary caregiver, we may also have to consider the other people who want to visit the person in care. The following are some useful tips for managing family and friends who are asking about visits:
- Tell people not to visit if they have any signs or symptoms of illness. This is critically important and applies to even the closest family members.
- If someone can’t physically come to see the person in your care, let them know that there are other ways to show they care. They may be able to assist with grocery shopping or picking up medications, or alternatively, they may like to drop off something to entertain the person, such as a book or jigsaw puzzle.
- Let them know they can also stay in contact by phone, email, FaceTime or Skype.
- If the person can visit, ensure they engage in social distancing measures by staying 1.5 metres away from each other.
The above are some guidelines and information that may help you, as a caregiver, during this time. This is an extremely difficult time for many people across Australia and globally. Remember that there is help and advice available to you, from a number of organisations across Australia.