Honoring Caregivers in the Time of COVID

Older woman and man wearing COVID face masks hold their four hands together

“I don’t know what I would do without this help.” This is something that Aging and Disability Services’ longtime caregiver support specialist Kristine Broome hears frequently.

“My client, Sandra, often says this when I check in with her regarding the services the Family Caregiver Support Program is providing for her,” continues Kristine. “She is currently receiving eight hours a week of respite care with a contracted home care agency and caregiver counseling through Sound Generations. Bathing assistance is included in the respite care Sandra’s mother receives.”

WA family caregivers flyer

In Seattle-King County, learn more about caregiver support by calling Community Living Connections toll-free at 844-348-5464.

Sandra is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother. As Sandra described it, “No one else has stepped up to the plate. I love my mom and I know she wants to stay in her home.”

Sandra has many things on her plate! Her mother is tube fed, and her nutritional well-being needs to be managed constantly. Sandra has noticed a decline in her mom’s physical and cognitive condition and is making frequent calls to her mother’s doctor regarding the best plan relating to treatments and medical care.

Sandra and her mother live in their 60-year-old family home, and she was responsible for arranging multiple repairs that were needed recently. Eight hours of respite care ensures that Sandra has blocks of time needed to attend to these concerns and get some “down time” when the stress of juggling so much responsibility can be overwhelming.

Sandra says that caregiver counseling is another significant and much needed benefit. She has received advice about stress management and selfcare in her role as a caregiver.

“The Family Caregiver Support Program has been a safety net for Sandra,” says Kristine. “She is able to navigate the day-to-day challenges of caring for her mother during a pandemic. She can count on getting much-needed relief from caregiving responsibilities, and can discuss and receive advice and guidance from a trained professional regarding her unique caregiving situation. These services enable Sandra to continue providing care for her mother in her own home.”

Caregiving in Crisis flyer

November is national Family Caregiver Month. This year’s theme is “Caregiving in Crisis,” which acknowledges the new realities family caregivers face with their loved ones during COVID.

Caregiving in Washington state

In Washington state, more than 840,000 family caregivers provide the backbone of our long-term services and supports—770 million hours and nearly $11 billion in unpaid essential assistance to loved ones, friends, and neighbors with chronic illness, disabilities, and other special needs every year.

Family caregivers manage health emergencies, juggle priorities, and suffer isolation—and all that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID increased the burden that many caregivers shoulder. Some families have chosen to remove their loved ones from residential facilities during this time, while others are finding ways to provide care while maintaining distance.

During the ongoing pandemic, caregivers have reported that providing care is more emotionally, physically, and financially difficult than normal, according to a University of Pittsburg survey. A majority reported that the pandemic has increased their caregiving efforts or duties, while more than one in five reported that the pandemic was interfering with their own health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted older people, adults with disabilities, and people from racial and ethnic minority groups, many of whom serve as family caregivers or receive care from family members.

Caregiver support is available

Unpaid caregivers—usually family members, friends, or neighbors—may be able to receive services that can help ease the burden of caregiving. Unfortunately, many family caregivers do not see themselves as caregivers so they do not seek out supports and services available to them, which may include respite care or other in-home services. Especially now, these programs can help reduce the burden on caregivers while helping their loved one remain in their home longer.

For information about caregiver support programs in Seattle-King County, call Community Living Connections toll-free at 844-348-5464. Just say “I’m a caregiver,” and they’ll take it from there!

AgeWise King County editor Irene Stewart compiled this article from her colleague Kristine Broome’s story and materials provided by Washington State DSHS Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of AgeWise King County.