Caregiving and COVID-19: Tips for people with vulnerable family members

Caregiving and COVID-19: Tips for people with vulnerable family members

COVID-19 and Caregiving

COVID-19 and Caregiving


COVID-19 has dramatically shifted daily life for many people around the world. Nobody is immune, and older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from the Coronavirus. To protect vulnerable individuals, many nursing homes or assisted living facilities are banning outside visitors temporarily in hopes of limiting residents’ exposure to someone who may be infected with the virus. Additionally, many individuals who need care and are currently living in their own homes are feeling isolated and anxious about how to stay healthy and safe.


Caregiving is now taking center stage. With already more than 8 million family caregivers helping loved ones in Canada, experts expect the virus to increase the number of people providing short-term or long-term care to an older or aging loved one. Here’s some guidance to family caregivers with vulnerable family members, especially those who might be new to caregiving because of Coronavirus and its impacts on older populations.


Make it a team effort


While there may be one primary family caregiver, identify other family members, friends and neighbors who can check in or help with shopping and important errands. It’s important that the person you’re caring for doesn’t leave their home and stays out of public places.


Create a list with contact information of friends, family and services in your community that can help you perform key caregiving tasks. For example, find out if services such as Meals on Wheels can help deliver meals, or if there are other local services to help with food or medication delivery.


Inventory essential items


It’s important to figure out what you have so you can determine what you need. Inventory how much food, medication and basic supplies the person you’re caring for has currently. Then make a list of what you need and how often you need to replenish it. Many older individuals often keep minimal extras on hand because they are on a strict budget and are used to regular grocery or medication refills. If possible, help them have a two-week supply of food, water, house cleaning supplies, and medical equipment.


Get medications in order


If you don’t already have one, create a list of medications, medical contacts, and important information like allergies for easy access. If there are upcoming non-emergency, routine medical appointments, reschedule those or, if possible, switch to a virtual visit to receive telemedicine. Ask your pharmacist or health care provider if you’re able to have an extra 30-day supply of essential medications on hand. Don’t forget to stock up on over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants and fever-reducing drugs like acetaminophen.


Stay connected


With current social distancing recommendations, strict isolation will impact many older individuals. To keep connections strong, set up communication using a variety of technology such as FaceTime or Skype, smart speakers, or simply phone and text. Use these to stay connected with your caregiving team as well as your older or aging family members.


If your loved one lives in a long-term care facility, see if they have accommodations for online visits and how they plan to communicate with families. If they can’t support visits via technology, send in cards, letters, magazines, puzzles or other items you know your loved one would be grateful to receive. Talk with your facility management about the safest way to deliver items.


Maintain personal safety and self-care


In order to help slow the spread of Coronavirus, limit physical contact with others, stay in as much as you can and continue to follow guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada. While you are likely very focused on the person you’re caring for, it is essential to also care for yourself.


For high-risk individuals, such as those with dementia and underlying health conditions, consider having the primary caregiver self-isolate with the care recipient. Then, have a back-up plan if the primary caregiver becomes ill. It’s best to be proactive and not have to use plan B, rather than being caught off guard without options.


For more information and advice for caregiving and important considerations in light of COVID-19, visit




Emergency Preparedness Checklist



Basic Needs and Supplies
☐ Water — one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)

☐ Food — it is a good idea to include foods that do not need cooking (canned, dried, etc.) (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)

☐ Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs (do not use candles)

☐ Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
☐ First aid kit and manual
☐ Medications (7-day supply) and medical items

☐ Multi-purpose tool (several tools that fold up into a pocket- sized unit)

☐ Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, plastic garbage bags)

☐ Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)

☐ Cell phone with an extra battery and charger (s)
☐ Family and friends’ emergency contact information
☐ Cash and coins (ATMs may not be accessible)
☐ Emergency blanket
☐ Map(s) of the local area
☐ Whistle (to attract the attention of emergency personnel)

☐ One change of clothing
☐ Manual can opener
☐ Pet supplies (including food and vaccination records)
☐ Extra set of keys (car, house, etc.)
☐ Pack of cards to provide entertainment and pass the time


Cold Climate Supplies

It is possible that you will not have heat during or after a disaster. Think about your clothing and bedding needs. Be sure to include one set of the following for each person:

☐ Jacket or coat
☐ Long pants and long-sleeve shirt

☐ Sturdy shoes
☐ Hat, mittens and scarf
☐ Sleeping bag or warm blanket


Supplies for Your Vehicle

☐ Flashlight with extra batteries and extra bulbs

☐ Maps
☐ First aid kit and manual
☐ Tire repair kit

☐ Jumper cables

☐ Flares

☐ Bottled water

☐ Non-perishable foods such as granola bars

Winter: Blanket, hat, mittens, shovel, sand, tire chains, windshield scraper, Florescent distress flag

Summer: Sunscreen lotion SPF 15 or higher, shade item (umbrella, wide-brimmed hat, etc.)