Supporting Caregivers During COVID-19

Caregivers

The coronavirus will be a factor for some time, making proper training imperative for caregivers

During the three months leading into June, more than 40,600 long-term care residents and workers died of COVID-19 — about 40 percent of the virus’ mortality rate. COVID-19 has created a need for some of the strictest standards for providing care, while reducing the risk of the transmission of infection. Yet, in many cases, the proper training has been lacking for the professionals and caregivers who regularly deliver care to some of the most vulnerable populations – the elderly and people with disabilities.

There are 4.5 million long-term care workers, including Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and other caregivers, across the United States. While hospitals and physician practices have a structure in place to congregate and disseminate timely information, home-based caregivers and others in less regulated settings are often left to fend for themselves. Many caregivers must search through disjointed information often not shaped to meet their particular situation. Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be inadequate, further endangering caregivers, their families and those they treat.

Caregivers, by nature, focus beyond themselves. With diseases such as the novel coronavirus, however, taking care of others starts with personal care so they can be healthy enough to continue work without risking spreading the illness to those who rely on them. Where can caregivers learn current, authoritative information geared to their particular context, including how to effectively use PPE and what to do if they do not have gloves, masks, or goggles?   

The key is finding one that offers accurate, relevant information that outlines safety measures specific for the caregiver, patient and family. Sources for the training program should draw from recognized public health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Frontline caregivers need targeted health guidelines that reduce the risk of virus transmission while caring for the elderly and people with disabilities in nursing homes and within their homes.

The structure of these courses can also be a barrier for caregivers. Many of these frontline workers see multiple patients per day and are busy with families of their own. They may not have time to attend an in-person class, if one is even available, or devote a half or full day to courses. The answer may be an online class option that is broken down into short-form videos accessible via cell phones. Video classes can be viewed during any available downtime, whenever convenient. 

National non-profit organizations, including LeadingAge and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), offer resources that caregivers can utilize for added support and to head in the right direction. These include training options that have been pre-vetted. 

The unfortunate truth is that COVID-19 is still with us and will be for some time. Even beyond this pandemic, the lessons learned through COVID-19 are applicable to potential future outbreaks, putting caregivers one step ahead the next time.  

Caregivers selflessly aid our most vulnerable populations. It is essential they have a safe working environment to perform at their best. 

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