The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily life. With stay-at-home orders slowly lifting and social distancing guidelines enforced, caregiving, especially for those who are chronically ill, is rapidly evolving. Keeping caregivers connected to those they care for and to their clinical providers is now more critical than ever.
One of the most impactful changes to caregiving during COVID-19 is the inability of many professional in-home caregivers to continue to visit their patients. The New York Times reported on the tough choices many home health aides face. “When New York City closed its public schools, Cindy Urena, a home health aide for Sunnyside Community Services in Queens, faced a choice: stop seeing a client with severe epilepsy or leave her 7-year-old daughter alone at home.” Ms. Urena made the tough choice to stay at home and care for her daughter instead of continuing to work and risk exposure to COVID. Ms. Urena isn’t the only one in this situation. As COVID-19 spreads, many home care agencies have seen a reduction in the number of clients they serve each day. They are also battling to keep both their employees and clients safe against a contagious virus that is most deadly to those with compromised health.
While many professional caregivers see a reduction in their workload, family members of the chronically ill are adjusting to becoming the primary caregiver both in person and from afar. Estimates from AARP suggest that pre-COVID unpaid family members were providing about $470 billion in caregiving services to their loved ones. Experts expect this amount to increase due to the pandemic.
Another problem caused by the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes is families choosing to bring their loved ones home. These new caregivers face challenges in adjusting how to care for their loved ones while continuing to balance their own lives. Jess Silfa, recounted her new role as the primary caretaker for her 96-year-old grandmother after bringing her home from a rehabilitation center to The Washington Post. “They are taking on difficult and unaccustomed roles. Silfa, who is in her early 30s, helps her grandmother use a bedside commode, cuts up her food, and gives her sponge baths.” Other family members are forced to be apart from their loved ones and are worried about their health and safety.
In response to the rapidly changing needs of caregivers, Vesta launched its new mobile app, Vesta, for Caregivers. The app is for both caregivers (professional and family) and care receivers. It supports anyone from a professional home health aide to a family member serving as a caregiver for the very first time. A personalized health plan determines the information that both caregivers and receivers see on the app. Information and targeted questions educate caregivers on what to look out for to keep their family members safe. Family caregivers find these questions particularly useful:
“I wasn’t expecting different questions each time, but I sort of love that… The questions feel relevant, but sometimes a little random. Like, ‘Does she have any new bruises?’ But I thought that was great actually because it’s not a question I would normally ask – it spurred a question about the carpets and other fall risks. So it was actually helpful to have them be a little random. I hadn’t asked my mom about that in months, maybe a year.”
The app also connects caregivers to a nurse call line 24/7 to answer questions and help alleviate concern. Families can rest assured whether they are providing their loved ones with care in the home or helping from afar, Vesta’s clinical team is monitoring their loved ones and they will be alerted if any issues arise.
As all of us adjust to a new normal, Vesta is here to support caregivers and try to alleviate some of the stress and burden that comes with managing chronic health conditions in our new routine of stay at home orders and social distance. More info on Vesta can be found here.