What does Social Distancing mean to a caregiver?
Two things everyone can do will make the biggest difference in how many people become sick with Covid-19 in the months and year ahead.
1. Wash away and kill the virus before it has a chance.
2. Social Distancing, staying 6 feet apart, is the other equally important factor.
How much the disease spreads is not dependent on doctors or the healthcare system. It’s dependent on the public. At this point there is no medicine that stops the virus in its tracks and no vaccine to fight it.
A man in Italy who recovered from Covid-19 had this to say about the virus: “It’s very clever and it walks”. In reality the virus doesn’t walk—every time a person with the virus talks, the virus flies out of the mouth and then lands. A cough or sneeze will carry the virus even farther. Early in the disease, a person can transmit this very contagious virus without looking or feeling sick. A woman from Washington state was having lunch with four of her friends before people were being advised about social distancing. She remembers feeling great that day even though she had already contracted the virus. Days later she started coughing. She then found out that she had spread Covid-19 to all four of her friends.
If you are a caregiver does that mean you need to stay six feet away from the person you are caring for? The answer is no. Your loved one/client needs help. It’s not possible to assist putting on clothes, assist standing and going to bathroom from six feet away. In addition, the person is at very low risk of having the virus if the person stays home all the time. This person is unlikely to give you the virus.
On the other hand, it’s much more likely that you get the virus outside the house and bring it in. Many senior living communities and nursing homes are not allowing visitors because of the concern the Corona virus can be brought in. Thus, it’s important to remember: Whenever you are not providing hands on care, socially distance yourself. For me, it is a moral responsibility to make sure I don’t carry the virus to patients.
Does this mean that a caregiver should stay socially distanced from loved ones? No, but things could change. For instance, I still hug my wife, partly because the virus hasn’t spread widely yet in Hawaii. We are also very careful. There are certain places around the country where people are in “lockdown”. In some places it means just staying at home. In Hawaii, it’s still ok to do outdoor exercise. My wife and I have cancelled haircut and other appointments. We’ve avoided the grocery store when it’s busy. We haven’t been having gatherings with friends. We work from home as much as possible. Both of us go out exercising and today I went for a walk with a friend. We stayed more than six feet apart, two arms lengths. For now, I think that’s ok.
Lastly, if you go outdoors with a person who has dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, be extra careful. The person very likely will not be able to understand nor follow all precautions. An open but protected space that is not used by others is the best. Caregivers should wash hands frequently. When providing care to a loved one/client, put on gloves. Make sure to wash the person’s hands. In addition, it is ok to wash the face using soap and water or a disposable sanitizing wipe.
To mask or not to mask? I’ll talk about that next.
Warmest Aloha and stay well,