How Caregivers Can Protect Their Loved Ones from Coronavirus

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by Ray Burow |

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Caregivers are on the front line in the fight against the new coronavirus. We aren’t facing it down the same way as medical professionals and researchers are, but we are among the enlisted.

Seniors and those with compromised immune systems have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that the 65 or older demographic who make up most of those with Alzheimer’s disease are at increased risk. So caregivers have a role in the fight, and like good soldiers, we must be equipped for the battle.

A balanced perspective

It’s not the media’s intention to freak us out, but a constant consumption of news reports on the disease will do that.

Focus on the facts surrounding the disease and how they affect you. Act on those facts and don’t allow fear to drive your perspective.

Wringing our hands in fear of what might happen is useless, though thoroughly washing hands has a direct effect on how the disease is spread. That action alone can change the trajectory of the disease and, in turn, protect your loved one.

Not sharing is caring

Humans are creatures of habit. Some of our habits and practices aren’t necessarily bad, but during a pandemic they need to be assessed. The coronavirus can spread from an infected person before they even show symptoms. You could be a carrier of the COVID-19 virus — though this is more likely if you meet the CDC criteria of those at increased risk. The person you provide care to also could be a carrier. Don’t eat from each other’s plates or share utensils or straws. Take precautions when preparing and serving food.

Bleach and other cleaners

Antibacterial detergents and cleaners are useful for killing bacteria on surfaces at home. Wipe down doorknobs, handles, counter surfaces, and hand railings that elderly people use. If your loved one sleeps in a hospital bed, wipe down the rails and other ergonomic tools that you both handle.

Wearing rubber gloves will protect hands from harsh chemicals and bacteria picked up by sponges and wipes.

Antibacterial soap is a caregiver’s friend

Why do humans tend to disbelieve simple solutions? We’re told over and over again how important it is to wash our hands, and it bears repeating. Wash your hands and be sure that your loved one’s hands are also clean. A person with Alzheimer’s disease might leave the bathroom without washing their hands, or their hand-washing method might be inadequate. Caregivers should ensure that hands are thoroughly clean. Stand at the sink and demonstrate, even kindly taking their hands in your own to wash them.

Trash the tissues

Tissues are everywhere, or so it seems. Caregivers will often find tissues in a loved one’s pockets when doing laundry. The balled-up paper hankies appear under seat cushions, in purses, on car dashboards, and under beds before making their way into the trash. No big deal under normal circumstances, but even when not facing a global pandemic, it’s kind of gross. Deal with the tissues, picking them up with rubber gloves and carefully disposing of them in a trash can or bag.

Be kind

Anyone can contract the coronavirus, given the right circumstances. Don’t lay the blame on a group of people or a community. There have been reports that people of Chinese descent have been unfairly targeted, as COVID-19 originated in China.

While the claim might seem ridiculous, the CDC was forced to address it. In a report, the CDC stated, “People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American.”

Additionally, don’t shun people who were quarantined and released. They’ve been cleared of the disease and can’t pass it on. No one chooses to be infected, so please remember the adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Control what you can

At the time of this writing, 1,000 cases of the new coronavirus were reported in the United States. That number is projected to rise. However, keeping perspective will calm your panic as a caregiver. Not to minimize the danger associated with the coronavirus, but during the 2018-2019 flu season, an estimated 35.5 million people fell ill, nearly 500,000 were hospitalized, and more than 34,000 people died. These numbers surpass the number of cases and coronavirus deaths so far. While I don’t intend to minimize the risk, we hope that the disease can be contained.

Remember, you can only control what is under your control. Follow the CDC precautions and live your life.

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

Comments

susan klee avatar

susan klee

also: could we have some info about Covid19 masks that Alzzzzzheimer's patients could wear that can't be removed?
[sorryy some keys aren't working!]

thank you

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Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Hi Susan,

Thank you for the question. Unfortunately, there's nothing much you can do to keep a mask on an Alzheimer's patient. They may not remember why wearing the mask is necessary and will constantly remove it. The only solution for keeping your loved one safe from the virus, is to continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines. Continue to thoroughly wash hands and also assist the patient with proper hand washing. Limit the person's exposure to people from the outside, and the caregiver and loved ones in the home may need to alter their personal lifestyle a bit. For instance, do not eat after one another and take extra precaution when preparing meals, etc. If someone within the household falls ill, isolate them in a separate room.

I hope this helps, Susan. We wish you and your loved ones good health through the coronavirus pandemic.

Ray

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