How to work as a family unit during the COVID-19 pandemic

Some to the most terrifying aspects of life, are those we cannot plan for. The COVID-19 global pandemic most definitely falls into that category. Everything about the pandemic has altered our “normal” way of life; possibly forever. The daily activities and habits most American’s never thought twice can now be considered high risk activities, causing many to weigh the need versus risk for their families. This time can be even more difficult for our older loved ones. As most people age it is natural to become more susceptible to infections and disease; and during a pandemic they become one of our highest risk demographics. Social distancing has been a difficult adjust for our society, and arguably even more difficult for the elderly. Any outing and interaction with the public is considered high risk, and when many older adults rely on transportation or assistance for even simple tasks like grocery shopping, many elderly people are finding it necessary to depend on their less susceptible family members.

Family members may find themselves being asked to pick up groceries or a prescription medication. They may even be asked to do yard or house work. Elderly persons may also have to live with family during this time, creating an even closer area of contact. Being around any person who is more at risk for the virus requires family members to be extremely mindful of their actions both in and out of the home. To think of the family as one unit working together, mitigates some of this risk, and are some simple steps that a family can take to help protect those loved ones at risk.

Limit Errands

Limit who is leaving the house to run errands, such as shopping, to one or two people. If possible keep children at home when shopping. Young children are also a susceptible population and are often tempted to touch more surfaces and forget hygiene guidelines, like keeping hands from eyes and mouth. Those family members who have been designated as the errand shoppers should only leave the house to do so when necessary, no extra or unneeded trips. Family members should also wear a mask whenever they interact with others outside of the house, including when shopping or picking up carryout. It is also important to remember to make extra hand washing when leaving and returning home a priority.

Drop Things Outside

If your elderly family member is not living with you, try to follow as many Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines concerning social distancing as possible. Leave groceries outside for elderly family members to take in their own home. Social distance visits through doors and windows to talk and catch up if an elderly family member needs company. If you do have to bring groceries or other items inside, keep a six-foot distance and wear masks and gloves.

Wash Hands for 20 Seconds

Anyone who leaves the house should wash their hands immediately upon return. Washing hands often for 20 seconds with soap and warm water should be a regular practice anytime someone touches has contact outside of the home.

Clean and Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces everyday to limit the potential spreading of the virus; including but not limited to counter tops, toys, and door handles. Cleaning these surfaces once a day is generally sufficient if no one is leaving the home.

Don’t Share

Do not share water bottles, food, lip balm or other personal items, even with children or significant others. Limiting the amount of shared items, even within a family, creates a lower risk of a household passing around germs or illness. If possible, try to craft a location for the elderly within the home. By giving them their own area to stay, it will be easier to limit contact with the rest of the house in the event another family member gets sick,

Keep it All in the Family

During this uncertain time it is important to recognize only those who reside in your home as your family “unit”. Do you best not interact with anyone outside the family unit. Limiting contact with others limits the potential to spread the virus among others in the family, including the elderly. Try to only be in contact with others when absolutely necessary and follow all social distancing rules when outside the house. While it may be hard for kids to understand, not seeing their friends falls under this category.

Doctor’s Visits and Professional Care

Many physicians are now offering telehealth, and can be a great option for elderly individuals in need of a regular doctor’s appointment. While telehealth can be a fantastic tool during this time, it is important to note this should only be used for routine wellness visits or if your elderly family member has a stable condition. If your loved one has a more serious or urgent matter, contact the physician's office for instructions on getting them in person to the office or hospital. If an elderly family member has a professional caregiver it will be a family decision whether to continue or suspend care. If you choose to continue care, please call the company or individual to discuss their procedures and precautions they are taking during this time.

Staying Connected

Being connected in a time of chaos and uncertainty is vital to keep spirits up and the health of any person. Luckily with today’s technology there are multiple ways to stay connected; phone calls, FaceTime, or Zoom sessions are fantastic options. Staying connected also means staying clear on who is handling tasks for elderly family members if multiple caregivers are involved.

Tools like CaringWire allow the family to stay on the same page with who is handling each task, and allows the entire family to work together as a unit to care for the ones they love. CaringWire can help track the completion of each task, and allows families to view other needs to be met, and send reminders.

Picture above: Screenshot of the task management portal. Invite family and friends, organize tasks and keep all information in one single location.

Here at CaringWire, we understand uncertain times can be scary, and that is why we are here to help. Operating as a unit requires all family members to work together to reduce the risk. This can be a difficult adjustment, but doing so will ensure that all family members are on the same page and keeping each other healthy.