What It Means to Be a Caregiver during COVID-19
A pandemic like Covid-19 changes the nature of what it means to be a caregiver. Caregiving is already an emotionally intensive vocation and any kind of crisis heightens this. New protocols need to be followed, new concerns arise, and new challenges face caregivers each and every day. With shelter-in-place orders in effect, caregivers find their personal worlds dwindle while their professional worlds need to carry on like business as usual. This can all feel confusing and stressful, while at the same time providing caregivers with an important role to play in keeping their communities healthy.
Being a Caregiver during Covid-19
Each caregiver will have their own unique experience while working during the Covid-19 pandemic. Providing in-home care services will feel like a relief to some and difficult to others. However, there are a few things that the majority of caregivers will all experience.
Caregivers are suddenly classified as an “essential worker.”
In-home caregiving has always been important, but during the Covid-19 pandemic caregiving has officially become an essential service. While many businesses have been ordered to shutter their blinds, in-home care agencies remain open as essential businesses. This comes with the sense of a heroic call to action, but it also puts caregivers at risk and separates them from their peers who are working from home during this time. A way to remedy feelings of disconnect is for caregivers to look to each other and their in-home care agencies for support.
Caregivers have to make adjustments for their own care.
During the Covid-19 pandemic caregivers are in a unique position where they themselves are in need of care and yet they still need to provide care to others. For example, caregivers who are parents may suddenly find themselves struggling to balance caregiving and spending time with their children who are home due to school closures. There is also the psychological toll of the pandemic, which is even higher for essential workers than the rest of the population.
Caregivers work with a high-risk demographic.
The idea of contracting Covid-19 is scary enough but even more so for people who are considered to be high-risk for health complications from the virus. Covid-19’s case fatality rate increases with age, with an estimated rate of 13.4% for patients 80 and older, compared to 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s. People who have health conditions or chronic illnesses are also at a higher risk for fatality. This puts caregivers in the position of needing to be extra diligent in maintaining the quality of their in-home care services.
Caregivers experience increased psychological stress.
The immense responsibility of working with high-risk demographics can take a psychological toll on caregivers. There is a lot of pressure to do everything right and to take as many precautions as possible. By being out in the community and going into people’s homes, caregivers also have the psychological stress of being at a higher risk for contracting Covid-19 themselves. For caregivers who don’t live alone, they also may be concerned about putting the members of their household at risk. It’s easy to see how this kind of stress would be difficult for anyone to cope with.
Caregivers need to remain informed.
While some people have the option of waiting out the pandemic in the safety of their homes, caregivers need to remain informed on how the pandemic affects their ability to provide quality in-home care services. This requires paying attention and planning ahead and checking in with their in-home care agency to see if there are any new resources that can be utilized. It also means adapting to changes in community protocols and understanding how those changes may affect clients' needs and care plans.
Caregivers have to be mindful of changes their clients are experiencing.
Seniors who have health conditions such as dementia are already sensitive to changes in their routines. With social life and community activities upended due to shelter-in-place orders and business closures, some seniors may experience an increase in their symptoms. For example, loneliness from social-isolation can lead to increased depression. Caregivers can help by adjusting care plans and finding ways to reduce symptoms, such as providing clients with engaging activities or arranging time with loved ones over video conferencing apps.
Caregivers need to be role models.
During a pandemic, the whole world is watching and eyes are often on essential workers. People are looking up to caregivers as role models, as sources of inspiration and mentorship. It’s not uncommon to hear caregivers referred to as heroes for the services they continue to provide for their communities. Many caregivers take this to heart and make it their mission to provide the best caregiving services possible while inspiring others to do the same.
The Covid-19 pandemic proves what has always been true — that caregivers are models of compassion and empathy. The values inherent in caregiving are a beacon of light during a dark and difficult time. Despite the extra stress during Covid-19, caregivers can take pride in themselves and the essential services they provide.