Coronavirus Questions Answered: Caregiver Health And Safety

There is risk for exposure in a caregiving situation. [Halfpoint / Shutterstock]
There is risk for exposure in a caregiving situation. [Halfpoint / Shutterstock]

What are your questions about the coronavirus?

ideastream is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can send us your questions with our online form, through our social media pages and group or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Mary Beth is a private, at-home caregiver for a 97-year-old woman whose son is visiting from California. Mary Beth asked: “When her son flies back to California would she need to self-quarantine for two weeks and should I also stay away from her, after her son leaves, for that two week period?”

Cleveland Clinic geriatric physician Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi said it’s important for everyone to monitor for symptoms, including fever, chills, shortness of breath, and loss of taste.

If anyone has symptoms, they should quarantine for seven days, and make sure they have three days without a fever and without taking a fever reducer before coming into contact with anyone.

“It is important to note that if someone doesn’t have any of those symptoms, then you practice the usual things: handwashing, good hygiene, not touching your face,” Hashmi said.

If there aren’t any symptoms, Mary Beth can resume her role as a caregiver immediately, but Hashmi said caregivers should limit contact and wear a mask. It is possible for people with asymptomatic COVID-19 infections to spread it to others, a fact which has been complicating the public health response.

An older listener called to say she’s been socially distancing, but she’s worried about coronavirus exposure from her caregiver.

There are different levels of care that people need, according to Lisa Weitzman of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

Some people need help getting groceries or medication. Some need company so they aren’t isolated. Weitzman said in those situations, a person might be able to receive caregiving without actual contact.  

But Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi said some older adults need more help with daily tasks like eating, bathing, and dressing. In those situations, there is risk for exposure.

“So anything that would apply to us as health care workers on the frontlines going in, in terms of protecting ourselves and our patients, same sort of thing would apply to caregivers coming into the home,” Hashmi said.

Hashmi said like hospital workers, home caregivers should minimize contact with the client as much as possible, wear masks and gloves, wash hands and disinfect surfaces.

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