Care Lessons Learned During COVID

Reviewed by  
Caregiving 101COVID

Top Takeaways

 

The pandemic has changed caregiving for both professionals and family members. 

  • Caregiver burnout was even more prominent during the pandemic.
  • Senior isolation increased during the pandemic, causing mental and physical health complications.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 seniors used some type of virtual or telehealth appointment during the pandemic.
  • Masks became an even more important staple in Personal Protective Equipment and infection control policies, especially for family members.



Intro

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every part of our daily lives. Since older adults were one of the most vulnerable populations for serious complications, changes due to the pandemic have affected all aspects of caregiving as well. 

 

These important takeaways from COVID will inform the future of caregiving for seniors and other vulnerable populations.



Isolation is unhealthy

 

While the entire globe was instructed to remain at home as much as possible, eliminating restaurant dining and other activities, seniors were especially isolated at home. Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with others, has demonstrated that isolation can lead to serious health complications like:

  • Increased risk for depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Rapid cognitive decline
  • Premature death

 

Reduce isolation for your loved one by:

  • Encouraging them to attend one event a week at the library or senior center (you could go with them too!)
  • Scheduling neighbors, friends, and family to drop in for a visit 
  • Helping your loved one host a coffee date with a few friends



Caregivers are stressed out

Caregiver burnout was already a serious issue among family and professional caregivers, but the COVID-19 pandemic made the phenomenon even worse. Caregivers were put at risk for contracting COVID themselves as they took care of those who needed them. Recent surveys show:

  • 43% of family caregivers report that caregiving in the pandemic led to more worry, fear, depression, and sleep problems as well as other mental health challenges
  • 56% of family caregivers report that COVID-19 has made caregiving more emotionally difficult than before

 

Be sure you are scheduling in self-care during your busy routine so that you don’t burn out:

  • Schedule rest breaks, using respite care services as needed
  • Ask for help with specific tasks from other family members or friends
  • Make sure you are eating well and drinking plenty of water
  • Steer clear of extra caffeine and alcohol



The Sandwich Generation is taking on more caregiving responsibilities

For those adults who are charged with caring for kids as well as aging parents, the pandemic has made caregiving even more difficult. A few statistics from the San Diego chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association tell the tale:

  • 63% of family caregivers report that the pandemic has increased their caregiving duties
  • 37% report that their caregiving duties have interfered with their own doctor appointments or treatments
  • 21% report the pandemic was interfering with their own healthcare needs

 

Make sure you are getting the help you need by asking for assistance with caregiving tasks like:

  • Meal preparation or drop-off (try Meals on Wheels in your area)
  • Picking up medications from the pharmacy
  • Providing transportation to/from appointments



Virtual appointments are effective

The pandemic made heading to the physician for a routine check-up more difficult or dangerous, leading seniors to take a chance on virtual appointments. While meeting with a physician is not always the same over a screen, seniors adapted well to the virtual option with nearly 1 in 4 using some type of virtual or telehealth solution during the pandemic.

 

If your loved one is nervous about using virtual or telehealth appointments, here are a few ideas to make the process smoother:

  • Double check that their insurance covers telehealth visits
  • Make sure the internet connection is good prior to the call
  • Encourage lots of video call practice to family members prior to the appointment
  • Write down a list of questions to ask
  • If possible, be there to help your loved one as needed
  • After the call, offer lots of praise for trying something new



Personal Protective Equipment is even more important

While professional and family caregivers consistently use gloves to reduce infection control, the pandemic taught us that personal protective equipment, or PPE, is crucial for respiratory protection as well. Masks are now a part of the caregiver uniform throughout the globe.

 

When family caregivers should use PPE:

  • When assisting with toileting needs, wear gloves
  • When changing dressings, wear gloves
  • When you are within more than 6 feet from one another, use a mask



Caregivers are under-supported

Both professional and family caregivers were left to provide care to others without much direction or support from local or national agencies. Ever resourceful, caregivers found a way to make good care a priority but the support system and resources for caregivers need to be improved moving forward.

 

Get the support, resources, and education you need to be an advocate for yourself and your loved one here:

  • Your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter
  • Senior living communities near you often host family support groups
  • Your town’s senior center or library might host support groups or education sessions geared to family caregivers
  • Your local hospital as well as your loved one’s physician



Public health issues require a team effort

The pandemic taught us that we are all connected and our decisions can have a serious impact on the lives of others. Seniors relied on their family members and greater community receiving the vaccine in order to provide safe care.

 

The biggest caregiving lessons from the pandemic are rooted in finding new ways to support caregivers and seniors so that they can remain healthy, happy, and connected with others.



Haley Burress

Haley Burress is a senior care and caregiving expert. She worked in senior care for more than 15 years before she started writing for senior care agencies and professional caregivers full time. She has experience in Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living, Independent Living, and Memory Care as well as Adult Day services and home care.