Caregiving From a Distance

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By News Team on March 20, 2020

Nearly 7 million people in the U.S. manage the ongoing challenges of caring for loved ones from a distance. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, that number is expected to increase significantly, especially as self-quarantines and isolation units minimize direct contact even among families that live near each other.

Ensuring that loved ones have the care and support they need when you can’t be with them every day is complicated, but with teamwork, coordination and a willingness to ask for help, it can be done.

When it comes to public health, “vulnerable populations” are most at risk of serious illness and complications. These people include:

  • The frail elderly
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease
  • People whose immune systems are suppressed by their condition or treatment, such as cancer patients

For vulnerable populations, and for anyone who is exposed to the novel coronavirus, isolation is the best course of action to prevent exposure to others. 

So how can we care for each other when we can't be together?

As Director of Systems Operations and Support for Carilion Clinic Home Care and Hospice, Sarah Browning recommends:

  • Checking in with each other regularly using any tool available
  • Using tools such as FaceTime and Skype so that you can see and hear each other 
  • Making sure that their medications are refilled (Carilion Clinic Pharmacy will fill prescriptions more than 30 days in advance and will mail-order them free of charge)
  • Exploring options for food delivery
  • Reinforcing social distancing measures

When you can't be there, the American Geriatrics Society encourages caregivers to keep in daily contact with their loved ones to monitor their continuing ability to:

  • Use the toilet
  • Bathe or dress
  • Get in and out of bed or a chair
  • Manage their finances and paperwork
  • Walk
  • Use the phone
  • Manage their medicines
  • Prepare meals and keep a supply of groceries

For everyone's safety, Carilion Clinic has put protocols in place for patients and caregivers. These include but are not limited to:

  • Asking patients to call their health care provider or walk-in clinic before visiting
  • Asking every patient a series of screening questions

And finally, remember to take care of yourself. Whether it's quiet meditation, a workout or time in the garden, self-care can boost your mental and physical well-being during challenging times.

Carilion Clinic message saying wash your hands and stay home when you are sick

Visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus for up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19. Call our Community Hotline for general questions about symptoms, resources, guidelines and more,

COVID-19 Community Hotline
1-866-604-2873

Monday - Friday, 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Do not call the Community Hotline to make appointments, or to request testing or test results. For information about COVID-19 and your personal health, talk with your primary care provider