An Empowered Patient and Caregiver Guide to COVID-19

Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak poses challenges for the global community, as well as for each of us individually. DWDC’s National Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Connie Jorsvik, helps us shift from anxiety to long-term planning and habit shifting.

For those who already have pre-existing health issues (those who are aging and dealing with frailty, as well as those with immune disorders), or if we are caring for someone who is in this category, our vigilance does need to be higher and our preparation greater in the face of COVID-19.

Here is an overview of what we now know:

  • COVID-19 virus is spread by ‘droplet’ infection and is not airborne.
    • When people cough, sneeze, or put their infected hands on surfaces, you may pick it up by touching that surface. Preliminary research is showing that the virus only lives for a few hours on any surface.
    • We touch our faces frequently and unconsciously. If your hands have touched an infected surface, you run the risk of infecting yourself through your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and hot water is best for a minimum of 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizers with an alcohol base when you can’t get to a sink.
    • Wash between your fingers, the backs of your hands, and rub your nails (including your thumbs because they get ignored), and to your wrists or higher.
    • Make this a habit every time you’ve been out in public and when you’ve used the washroom.
  • Distance yourself from crowded situations when COVID-19 comes to your community.
  • Save masks for those who are sick and for healthcare professionals. Masks are not overly helpful if you are not sick – and if you are touching your face to adjust your mask, you may infect yourself. If you’re advised to wear a mask, seal it over your mouth and nose with clean hands and then, don’t touch your face until you’ve sanitized them again.
  • If someone in your life has a cold (and until this crisis has passed), don’t assume it’s just a cold. The thought now is that mild infections are going unchecked and untested. Ask that friends and family stay away until they are well to protect yourself.
  • If you don’t have a family member who can shop for you if you are ill or quarantined, try your best to stock up on non-perishable food, water, and other supplies that will see you through a neighbourhood quarantine or your ability to get to the store during illness (about enough for a month). Most people are only sick for a few weeks.
  • And, if you are sick, quarantine yourself. Call your Health Line (most provinces, 8-1-1), Public Health department, or your doctor’s office regarding next steps.
  • If you live alone, have people check in on you by phone.

For those who have loved ones in care homes – or if they are receiving care by home care workers:

Various residential care facilities have reported cases of COVID-19. Also, if you or your loved ones are ill at home, home care workers who move from one home to the next carry a greater risk of cross-contamination.

By being assertive and, empowered patients and caregivers, you can reduce the risk of infection by doing the following:

  • Buy additional soap, cleaning supplies, and Lysol wipes and renew your supply as needed.
  • Be even more vigilant in watching for, and speaking up about, handwashing between every patient or resident, and glove changing between every patient or resident.
  • Equipment should be cleaned between every use (volunteer to take on this task before your loved one uses equipment).
  • Communal meals will be an opportunity for infection spread and tables and chairs should be washed after every meal and snack.

It is valuable to consider that a care provider could become ill. Do you have some time to formulate a backup plan for your loved ones for care when the facilities are short staffed?  This is a good time to build a back-up team for additional support.

And, if you or your loved one is in residential care and seriously ill, take a moment to find out what plans are in place by the facility. Asking questions will go a long way in easing anxiety and helping you and others prepare.

Finally, this is a great call to action in completely your Advance Care and Estate Planning documentation and to have conversations with your loved ones. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on making COVID-19's spread and time in the news an opportunity to prepare and communicate your health wishes.

Read more about Advance Care Planning and COVID-19 in Part 2 of our National Advance Care Planning Coordinator's series on the epidemic here

*Please note that all information in this blog post was accurate at the time of posting; we're continuing to update our blog and site with information on COVID-19 as the situation develops. 

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