Message from the Director: Caregiving and COVID-19

AMERICUS, GA – The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving today released the following message from its executive director, Dr. Jennifer Olsen:

We recognize you are probably being inundated with information about COVID-19 (the Coronavirus). We also recognize the everyday demands of caring for your loved one is already a full-time job, without adding decision-making on how to prepare for an infectious disease.

I am an epidemiologist by training, and prior to joining RCI as its executive director spent years engaging communities on how to best report and respond to emerging health threats. Given my understanding of infectious disease, I wanted to reach out with some tips on how you, as a caregiver, can take steps to be prepared.

Many of these ideas aren’t novel or new, but they bear repeating because they are proven to work in keeping you safe and slowing the spread.

  • WASH YOUR HANDS – We know this works and it works best when you do it for 20 seconds. We understand 20 seconds may be an eternity for your loved one. Try singing their favorite song. Singing 20 seconds while scrubbing hands may be more fun and engaging than counting it out.
  • PLANNING FOR CLOSURES – In the event adult care facilities or senior centers close, develop an advance plan for how you will cover this time in your schedule.
  • PLANNING FOR RESPITE – Create backup plans for taking a break in the event your usual routines for respite are disrupted. Try to continue to prioritize taking care of yourself. Make sure your phone contacts are up to date so you can stay in touch by phone or text message (you will need people to talk and laugh with).
  • SUPPORTING EACH OTHER – Caregiving is an isolating experience. Check in often on your family, friends and neighbors who are caring for a loved one. They may need help running routine errands, like the grocery store or pharmacy. Or they may just need someone to talk to.

If someone living with you in your home is presumed or confirmed to have COVID-19, please read and follow these CDC guidelines.

I was talking to Mrs. Carter recently about navigating COVID-19. She emphasized the importance of listening to the experts across government, science and medicine. And as always, she encouraged me to remind people how isolating and stressful aspects of caregiving can be. We know the best support to give a caregiver is simply to ask how they are.

Thank you,
Jennifer Olsen, DrPH
Executive Director, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving

Read more about Dr. Jennifer Olsen’s experience and review our suggestions for caregiving during COVID-19 (the coronavirus).