People at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are older adults and, people of any age with certain health conditions. Learn how you can be an effective caregiver while also taking care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if your loved one if affected by any of the following health conditions:
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic lung disease
Dementia or other neurological conditions
Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
Having a weakened immune system
Substance use disorders
Overweight and obesity
Sickle cell disease
Having had a solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
Smoking, current or former
Tips for Caregivers
Get a COVID-19 vaccine
Get a vaccine and help your loved one get a vaccine, too. Get a vaccine booster shot as soon as it is recommended for you and your loved one to increase your protection. If you have questions, talk to your healthcare providers for advice. You should also talk to your healthcare provider about additional precautions you can take after you and your loved one are fully vaccinated. For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control.
To find a nearby location where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine:
After you are fully vaccinated, continue to wear a mask indoors in public places. The vaccine will protect you from severe illness and death, but you can still be infected and transmit the COVID-19 visrus and its variants to others.
If your loved one has a weakened immune system, they may NOT be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated. Help your loved one talk to their doctor. Be sure that they wear a mask in public, stay 6 feet apart from others, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
As a caregiver you should take all the precautions you can to avoid becoming infected yourself. Ensure that your loved one is also taking precautions. Here are the basics:
Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Soap and water are always preferable, but if they are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or do so into your elbow. Throw away used tissues in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, and include mobility and medical equipment, such as walkers, wheelchairs, canes and handrails. Learn more about cleaning and disinfecting from the CDC.
Create a caring support team
Bring together a caring support team made up of several trusted individuals that can help you perform some key caregiving tasks. Assign them practical things that they can do to help, for example:
Phoning your loved one regularly
Helping with errands
Doing online shopping
Setting up telemedicine services for your loved one (i.e., medical appointments over the phone or by video).
Find out about trusted services that may be available in your community, such as local nonprofits offering food delivery, and houses of worship offering online religious services.
Call 211 or visit 211search.org for community resources in your area.
Plan for what you will do if you or your loved one gets sick
A care plan summarizes your health conditions, medications, healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and end-of-life care options, for example, advance directives (a living will). You should have a care plan in place for both yourself and your loved one.
The CDC has guidance on developing a care plan and a fillable care plan form to help you.
Consider helping your loved one to consult with their doctor by phone to complete their care plan.
As part of these plans, determine who will care for you and your loved one should you become ill. Make sure that they understand both of your medical needs, and that they have a copy of each of your care plans.
Follow the directions of your state and local authorities
Ensure that you and your loved one follow the directions of your state and local authorities. Check your county or state websites for timelines, closures, and local information on COVID-19 and how it affects your community. Find contact information for state, local, and tribal governments at usa.gov/state-tribal-governments. Find contact information for local health departments at naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory.
Advise your loved one to stay home as much as possible. Help them to avoid all non-essential outings, and large and small gatherings in private and in public. If they do have to go out, help them to practice social distancing, also called “physical distancing” by ensuring that they keep 6 feet between themselves and others while in public and to avoid close contact with people who do not share their home. Also, help your loved one cover their mouth, nose and chin and close to cheeks with a double-layered face cover if they must go out in public. The CDC recommends that masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance. For detailed information, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
Help your loved one stay connected. Help your loved one stay in touch with their friends and family through frequent phone calls, video calls, text, or email.
Limit visits with family members, especially young children. While family members can help run errands, your older loved one should always keep about 6 feet away from them. Have visitors leave food or grocery items at the door rather than entering the home. Avoid inviting young children into the home because it is difficult for them to understand the importance of social distancing.
Ensure that your loved one has a 1-month supply of medications and a 2-week supply of food, if possible, to avoid frequent shopping trips and limit their potential exposure to the virus.
A 1-month supply of prescription medication includes over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants and fever reducing drugs. Ask their pharmacy if prescriptions can be delivered to their home, or if you can pick up their medicines using a drive thru. Order medication refills for them as you normally would. Consider having on hand a thermometer and supplies of distilled water for CPAP machines if needed.
A 2-week supply of food also includes water, household cleaning and disinfection supplies, bar or liquid soap, paper products, personal hygiene items, and medical supplies or equipment. Contact their local grocery stores to see if they offer online ordering with options for contact-free home delivery or curbside pick-up.
Beware of scams. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of people’s fears and the Federal Trade Commission has tips to help protect you and others. There currently are no vaccines, pills, lotions or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 online or in stores. Beware of “viral videos” suggesting potentially dangerous or toxic home preventatives, such as drinking excessive amounts of water or mouthwash.