Around 40 million Americans were providing unpaid elder care before the Coronavirus pandemic. The number could be higher now. Younger relatives are moving older relatives out of assisted living facilities and rehab centers, while others are discontinuing home health services and losing access to respite provided by day-care centers, which have closed.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Administration on Aging runs a service called Eldercare Locator, which connects older Americans and their caregivers with local support resources such as meals, home care and transportation, as well as caregiver needs training. It can be reached online or at its toll-free number (1-800-677-1116). The Eldercare Location can help you find and contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). AAAs were established under the 1973 Older Americans Act as organizations to help vulnerable older Americans.
Many AAAs provide meals, transportation and in-home services. Services may currently be limited due to the coronavirus outbreak but contact your local agency to find out. Check the CDC website for updates on guidelines regarding the coronavirus. The website provides details for families and households about how to stay safe and be prepared in the event a family member falls ill from COVID-19. Specific information is available for high-risk individuals, including older adults.
Build a support network. It is always important for the primary caregiver to have a network of support caregivers but it is particularly important during a global pandemic.
“Make a plan in case you get sick,” said Bill Walsh, of the AARP. “Identify your caregiving team – friends, neighbors and other family.” Look for online support groups and hotlines. These networks can offer valuable advice as well as emotional support. AARP runs a caregiver support line at 1-877-333- 5885 as well as a Facebook group for caregivers. They are also holding weekly webcasts about COVID-19 and what it means for older adults and family caregivers.