AARP AARP States Montana

Caregiving in the Era of COVID-19

Woman paying bills for elderly mother

By Tim Summers, AARP Montana State Director

Even in ordinary times, the 114,000 unpaid family caregivers in Montana face a daunting set of daily tasks. With little or no training, they’re often responsible for wound care, tube feedings, dressing, transportation and managing finances and medical bills of their loved ones.

Of course, these are not ordinary times.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the lives of family caregivers, especially those with older loved ones who are most susceptible to Coronavirus. It has added fear, anxiety and isolation to an already-stressful situation. Here in Montana, routines have been upended we cope with this disease.

Since the outbreak of the virus, AARP has been urging family caregivers to develop a plan in case they or a loved one gets sick. Our recommendations include:

Pull Together a Team. Develop a list of family, friends and local care-giving services who can help.

Identify Local Services. Many restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores are adding pick-up and delivery services.

Check the Federal Government’s Eldercare Locator (found at eldercare.acl.gov) to help you find support services in your area.

In addition, AARP Montana has launched a new webpage to help locate resources for those affected by COVID-19 (found at aarp.org/montanacoronavirus).

Also, check the new online “AARP Community Connections” (found at aarpcommunityconnections.org). That site enables people to enter their zip codes and find informal groups of neighbors and friends offering help in their community.

Inventory Essential Items. Determine how much food, medication, and basic supplies your care recipient has on hand. AARP recommends a two-week supply of food, water and medical and household cleaning supplies.

Get Prescriptions in Order. Make sure you have a list of medications and medical contacts needed by your loved one. Don’t forget to record all allergies. If there are upcoming routine medical appointments, reschedule those or switch to a virtual visit. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends having a 30-day supply of essential medications on hand. Don’t forget over-the-counter medications such as cough suppressants and fever reducing drugs like acetaminophen.

Stay Connected. Isolation is a concern as we all follow the social distancing guidance from the CDC. However, social distancing need not lead to social disconnection. Develop a communication plan and identify times when members of the care team will check on your loved one. Skype, Zoom and Facetime can help, but so can lower-tech options like email, texting and telephone calls. Encourage people to send cards, letters, magazines or other items.

Protect Yourself. It’s important for family caregivers to take care of themselves. Follow the CDC guidelines. Washing your hands, avoid crowds, practice social distancing and stay home if you feel sick.

Reach Out. AARP has a dedicated, toll-free hotline for caregivers. Live operators are available Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (MT) at 877-333-5885.

Get Expert Advice. Go to AARP Montana’s new webpage to help locate resources (found at aarp.org/montanacoronavirus). AARP also has a Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/aarpfamilycaregivers) where caregivers get tips from experts, share their stories and get encouragement from others.

You can also find answers to your questions online at the AARP Caregiver Resource Center aarp.org/caregiving

Our caregiving information and services are free and available to everyone.

Our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, said, “What we do, we do for all” – that founding principle continues to guide us and has never been more important than it is today. Working together – and caring for each other – we will get through this.

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