Caring during COVID-19: The Essential Work of Being A Caregiver

A black and white photo of older people holding hands.
Photo by Gert Stockmans via Unsplash.

Oakland Voices asked our correspondents to chat with those affected by COVID-19, including essential workers. 

An estimated 21% of people in the U.S. are caregivers, according to a report by AARP. It was recently reported that now more than ever it’s urgent for healthcare systems and organizations to not only support members of the medical infrastructure, but to also recognize these caregivers, who face the pressures of maintaining their own healthy lifestyle as they balance caregiving duties.

Prior to COVID-19, caregivers dealt with social distancing before the term became accepted and typical. These invisible workers balanced hygiene, best health practices, and whatever tools available to them to survive the day to day issues of living, while at the same time provide unconditional love and care. They have always been aware of the efforts of taking care of others.

As the sole caregiver for his wife for several decades, Ed*, aged 66, has been self-delegated the responsibility to keep health and safety as his primary focus. And although COVID-19 is widespread, little for him has changed. He still shops, provides care, and takes care of all of the home responsibilities, while ensuring and providing the highest in health standards.

And although Ed continues to share with his wife his concerns about the health scare that is going on, it is obvious that while sharing these days together in isolation, they can see nothing has changed for the caregiver. His concerns are the same as before. He continues providing excellent home health care and strives to take care of himself as the caregiver to ensure continued care. Social isolation is the only new factor.

Ed shared that during this time as well as before the pandemic, he owns, appreciates, and values the satisfaction of caring for his wife. Sadly, he has also learned that as you continue to provide care you are left with the realization that with caregiving, as with life, “it’s everyone is for himself.”

How does a caregiver manage his own wellness? “You do the best you can because you are ultimately the only person.”. It is urgent that the caregiver maintain good health to ensure the good health of their loved one.

An image of a woman in a wheelchair looking at her garden.
An image of Ed’s wife.

They are afforded the peacefulness of their garden as a place to retreat and steal away from the woes of COVID-19.

However, even with precautions, since the original interview with the couple in mid June, both Ed and his wife were both diagnosed, treated, and luckily, both have since recovered from COVID-19. 

It is believed a former nurse stopped by to drop off cake and flowers for the wife’s birthday, though they are not sure if this is how they were infected with COVID-19. 

The wife, who is disabled, contracted the disease, became unresponsive, and was quickly hospitalized at a local hospital. She was lucky to be treated with Remdesivir and released within 5 days. The husband, Ed, who was always diligent and extremely cautious with her care including limited exposure to them both, also was infected with COVID-19, and although himself quite ill and having to administer self-care, was not hospitalized. 

The separation during the wife’s hospital stay was as disabling as the virus since there was limited contact between the two of them, except through daily phone calls provided by a supportive hospital staff member. The recovery period is long and both continue maintaining good health practices.. 

Ed stated that even with the utmost intentions and the best practices and precautions, there is no way to say you will be spared. “I continue to be cautious and I caution others that even with every precaution taken; there is no way to safely say you will not be touched by this horrible disease.”

*Ed prefers that his full name not be used.

Author Profile

Jo Ann Bell works as an office manager and administrative support person in a private independent high school in Berkeley, California. She is an avid reader, loves people and travel and especially the written word. She is a 2010 graduate of Oakland Voices and after several years away has returned to join the Oakland Voices Alumni group.

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