Dear Carol: My husband and I are in our late 70s but due to his health problems, I’ve been his caregiver for years. Recently, he had his second stroke and has been in rehab. He’s going to be discharged soon because they feel like all that can be done to improve his mobility has been done, but unfortunately, he will continue to need a wheelchair when not in bed.
My husband's a large man so I already know that I can’t handle transferring him on my own. We are fortunate that we can afford in-home care for a while so that’s what I want to do, but is this safe? Thankfully, there have been no cases of the virus reported in his rehab, but in-home care scares me. These caregivers would be going to other assignments as well as going home to their own families, some with children. What choices are there for couples like us? — RE.
Dear RE: I’m sorry about your husband’s stroke and his increased need for care. That would be hard anytime, but as you mentioned, every choice you make is far harder now that we’re dealing with COVID-19 and the issue of contagion.
Few people feel completely secure about how they can balance legitimate needs with some assurance of safety. If there were an end in sight it would be different, but what we see now looks like our new normal for some time. So, knowing that any decision offers imperfect options, we need to determine what is the safest imperfect decision.
Not surprisingly, in-home health care is booming now because people are skittish at best about assisted living and nursing home placement. Additionally, even those who want such placement often can’t move in at this time since some areas are still actively fighting rising infections in their communities. Therefore, those waiting may need in-home care for now.
For this reason, in-home companies have increased their hygiene measures to include masks, frequent testing, extra hand-washing and other precautions for the safety of their clients as well as their staff.
Is there still some risk? Of course. Testing is not yet completely reliable, and a good percentage of people who carry the disease have no symptoms so they may seem safe to work when they are not.
However, even if you are in good health for your age, it doesn’t sound safe for you, or your husband for that matter, for you to be his sole caregiver. You could be risking a serious injury that might then prevent you from providing care for him in the future.
Hiring an agency that has its reputation on the line should be a reasonable choice. If your husband can wear a mask during intimate care, so much the better. I’d suggest that you wear one at least while you are in close contact with the caregiver.
We are all in new territory, but with precautions, you should be as safe as possible given your choices. I hope this works out well for you.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.