The Blog to Transform Advanced Care

Advancing Care through Innovation, Observation and Collaboration.

This is the second installment in a three-part blog series which highlights the variety of challenges faced by caregivers.

By: Kenny Rakwong, Database, Operations, and Research Intern, C-TAC

As we rightfully celebrate our doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, and other essential workers fighting in the front-lines against the coronavirus, we must almost recognize the essential role being played by caregivers. Many of these caregivers are tending to family members and loved ones with severe underlying medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. This has created an added stressor for caregivers.

In the first post of our series on caregiving, we shared the story of Sarah, a student caregiver for her grandfather with Alzheimer’s and grandmother with chronic pain. Sarah mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in her feeling chronic anxiety due to worry about the health of her grandparents and ensuring that her own home is safe and properly sanitized. It’s caused her to have difficulties focusing on her duties as a student. Another student caregiver stated that she must take extra precautions such as disallowing non-family members into the home and sanitizing groceries. Financial fears have also impacted millennial caregivers, mentioning that their hours at work have been cut and they wonder if they are able to pay for medication. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “not stressful” to 10 being “extremely stressful”, the average score of the students I interviewed was an 8.

In order to help older adults feel less lonely during the pandemic, it’s important to make sure they feel involved. Some older adults may only make use of their phone for calls, but teaching them about other technologies can help them feel more connected with their loved ones and friends. One student caregiver taught her grandfather how to use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Teams, and WeChat. Non-electronic ways that older adults can stay active and connect with others include writing notes or sending cards. Other activities include organizing old photos and memorabilia with loved ones, enjoying stories and happy memories, or demonstrating how to cook a favorite family recipe.

To minimize the risks of the COVID-19 infection, it is necessary to postpone non-essential doctor visits. To help them stay connected, ask their doctor’s office if they offer telemedicine which allows doctors and patients to communicate via video rather than face-to-face. Student caregivers have reported feeling that telemedicine is very accommodating and efficient during this stressful period, however others have mentioned they felt doctors aren’t able to do as much as they would during a regular meeting, other than document and verify conditions. Older adults who are involved in faith-based groups can feel connected to their community by attending virtual religious ceremonies. Interviewed students have mentioned that the religious communities that they’re involved in are doing work to assist in caregiving such as pastors stopping by homes and dropping off groceries for older adults.

It’s critical that caregivers understand the higher risks that older adults with serious illnesses face from the coronavirus. It is important to ensure that they are staying connected with their loved ones and faith-based communities through technology or written communications. This will prevent them from feeling isolated and depressed. Providing at home projects will keep them feeling productive and involved. Lastly, it can help caregivers to be aware of the resources available such as telehealth in doctors’ offices and older adult caregiving resources from religious organizations. The quality of life for caregivers and patients can improve if the right changes are made to support caregivers.

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