Caring for a Chronically Ill Family Member

As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, those caring for a chronically ill family member face increased stress and isolation. Here are some tips to help a caregiver cope during this difficult time.

Caring for a Family Member With a Chronic Illness

When you are the caregiver for a family member in-home with a chronic illness, your daily schedule is shaped by the needs of someone else. Often support groups and coping strategies such as weekly activities and scheduled events for your family member, provide needed rest and personal care.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away many of these simple things. You also may have lost access to in-home assistance due to social distancing recommendations or your additional caregivers facing illness themselves.

With the COVID-19 social distancing, caregivers also lose access to many of these resources. In addition, the caregiver has the increased anxiety of knowledge of their family member’s vulnerability to COVID-19. These fears are particularly strong for those with heart conditions, lung disease, or diabetes.

Caring your Chronically Ill Family Member at Home

If you care for your family member at home and lose the benefit of other assistance, be sure to check with your employer about eligibility criteria for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Establish a routine with your family member that allows you to find time to care for your own mental health and make lifestyle changes necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This could involve strolls in the neighborhood, meals outside on the porch or patio, or working through a favorite TV or movie series.

Find Support When Caregiving at Home

Daily living requires connection with other communities. Be sure to join an online support group and be in regular touch with close friends and family. As you provide caregiving during this difficult time be aware of signs of depression in yourself. Be in contact with your own healthcare team to address symptoms that may develop from stress.

The Family Caregiver Alliance and local Area Agency on Aging are both excellent resources for a family member’s caring for a spouse or family member with a chronic condition.

Caring for Your Chronically Ill Family Member in a Nursing Home

If your family member lives in a long-term care facility, restrictions may have been placed on visitation and other involvement. Be sure to establish a strong relationship with the facility in order to consistently check up on your loved one’s well-being.

Nursing homes and other assisted care facilities should prioritize contact with family caregivers. Staff should provide you with a daily schedule. Additionally, they should give you ways to communicate, as in hours to Skype or methods to provide letters and gifts.

If your family member has a long-term illness limiting activity and mobility, health care providers should be able to supply you with their routine of care, including medicine, baths, and therapies. You also need to pursue continual access to their medical files and test results.

Check in with the Assisted Living facility on their COVID-19 protocols. Be sure they can answer you sufficiently about cleaning and prevention processes in place to protect the medically vulnerable.

a chronically ill family member

Risk Factors for COVID-19

You may need to make changes to the care for your family member with a chronic illness. That way you can protect them against contracting COVID-19, which can be life-threatening.

Make sure to be educated on your loved one’s medical condition, whether your family member lives with you or not. Coping with conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or diagnoses of heart disease or arthritis requires work and management. Adding the threat of COVID-19 may require home modifications or changes to caregiving-related tasks at a facility.

Be aware of the three major symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Contact your medical care provider now, before symptoms present. This will help you establish a plan in case your family member becomes medically ill.

Reach Out and Stay Connected While Caregiving

These are stressful times, but communities are unified in their resolve to help. Do not hesitate to reach out and make both daily and emergency plans with your support network now.

If you do not have a support network, make a few connections through community agencies in order that, should emergency health needs arise, you do not feel alone.

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