Caring for a senior with COVID-19

Even if we do everything right, there’s always a chance we or someone we know will contract COVID-19.

If your loved one tests positive, there are a few things you can do to care for them in a way that protects you and those in your inner circle. The first thing to do is stay calm: you can’t look after them if you’re not looking after yourself first!

Caring for someone with COVID-19 checklist (find out more on the Government of Canada website):

  1. Stock up on PPE (personal protective equipment) and cleaning supplies.
    • Medical masks if available, or non-medical mask or face covering
    • Eye protection (face shield or goggles) for use by caregiver
    • Disposable gloves (do not re-use) for use by caregiver
    • Disposable paper towels
    • Tissues
    • Waste container with plastic liner
    • Thermometer
    • Over the counter medication to reduce fever (e.g. ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
    • Hand soap
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
    • Dish soap
    • Regular laundry soap
    • Regular household cleaning products
    • One-step cleaner/disinfectant
    • Hard surface disinfectant, or if not available, concentrated (5%) liquid bleach and a separate container for dilution
    • Alcohol prep wipes or appropriate cleaning products for high-touch electronics
  2. Make sure you’re the only one caring for the patient. This will limit spread. If you’re at increased risk yourself of severe outcomes of COVID-19 (e.g. if you’re over 65 years old or have existing medical conditions), it’s safer if to find a caregiver who doesn’t share these risk factors.
  3. Avoid sharing a bathroom (if possible) or personal items with the patient. Also try to avoid snuggling up with the same pet, as the virus can be transmitted this way.
  4. Wear PPE (masks and gloves) when caring for the person, and don’t reuse them.
  5. Clean your hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with the ill person and after removing gloves, face masks and eye protection.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  7. Clean, clean, clean! Keep soiled laundry and PPE in a separate lined container for disposal / washing and wipe down all surfaces / high-touch devices frequently with an approved hard-surface disinfectant that has a Drug Identification Number (DIN). If you can’t find one, you can use a diluted bleach solution prepared in accordance with the instructions on the label, or in a ratio of 5 millilitres (mL) of bleach per 250 mL of water OR 20 mL of bleach per litre of water.
  8. Monitor yourself for symptoms. If you followed all the necessary safety steps, monitor yourself for 14 days after you last cared for the patient. If you think you may have been exposed to the virus in some way, or if you develop symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days and call your doctor or local health authority.

Even in the best of times, caregivers are the silent warriors of our health care system, providing unpaid critical care for their loved ones.

While COVID-19 presents new challenges in doing this safely, it is possible to be there for an older person in your life who tests positive and help them recover safely. It just takes planning and a mindfulness of following the rules.

As always, the best source of information around COVID-19 is public health. Read the official checklist from the Public Health Agency of Canada.