For some time, we have been accustomed to providing support to the individuals with whom we work in fairly typical ways. Though we try to remain engaged and alert, it is easy to fall into routines and patterns. The current international health crisis demands that we stretch out of our comfort zones and implement more creative ways to ensure the health and safety of our folks. Many of them may not fully understand the situation and its risks. They may become bored, restless, or frustrated. They may also become fearful and stressed. It is our job to be prepared to offer support across the full spectrum of possible reactions we may encounter. The information contained in this resource is meant to be specific and practical so that you can use it in your own life and be ready to share what is needed to meet the needs of the people you work with on a daily basis.
First, some CVL-specific practical changes in the way we do things:
1. First and foremost, if you are experiencing any symptoms or fear you may have been in close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, do not perform any service visits. Notify your supervisor and self-isolate as recommended by the CDC. Though this may be inconvenient and disruptive to your life, we must never put those we support at risk by knowingly transmitting COVID-19.
2. Suspend monthly supervision visits, if possible, until at least April 15th at which time we can re-evaluate. It is possible to do a virtual home visit over the phone. You may use the same questions and discussions you would typically have face to face. Ask the IC to take a picture of the med log and text it for our records. Service visits will continue without interruption at this time unless changes are requested by the individual or family served.
3. Regarding quarterly and annual meetings, please call your WCM and let them know you are willing to call in and keep in close communication through emails, but not attending in person unless circumstances warrant in-person attendance and it is approved by your director.
4. For the time being we are suspending taking on any new folks as service recipients. Our focus will be on supporting those with whom we already work.
5. Hour for hour folks are strongly encouraged to use good judgment and wash hands often as directed by the CDC. Do not plan to go out into crowded areas of the community with those you support unless absolutely necessary. Keeping the recommended social distance from others is everyone’s best protection against infection.
All of these actions will greatly reduce the opportunities for infection and keep the folks we serve safer. The number of infections will increase, but if we can slow this down, folks will have a better chance of getting medical services if needed as, hopefully, the system won’t be overrun.
In addition to these CVL-specific recommendations, here is some helpful general information from the American Red Cross:
LIMIT THE SPREAD OF GERMS AND PREVENT INFECTION
The Red Cross recommends following common sense steps to help prevent the spread of any respiratory virus.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.
· Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throw used tissues in the trash. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve, not your hands.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, computers, phones, keyboards, sinks, toilets and countertops.
· If surfaces are dirty, clean them - use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Full information on how to disinfect found here.
· Wear a facemask if you are sick. You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
GET YOUR HOUSEHOLD READY
There are things you can do right now to be ready for any emergency, and many of these same tips will help you prepare as the coronavirus situation continues to evolve in the U.S.
· Have a supply of food staples and household supplies like laundry detergent and bathroom items, and diapers if you have small children.
· Check to make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your prescription medications, and have other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins.
· Know how your local public health agency will share information in your community and stay informed. Find more information here.
· Learn how your children’s school or daycare, and your workplace will handle a possible outbreak. Create a plan in the event of any closings, event cancellations or postponements.
· If you care for older adults or children, plan and prepare for caring for them, should they or you become sick.
· Help family members and neighbors get prepared and share the safety messaging with those who may not have access to it.
According to the CDC, patients with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Call your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms.
WHO IS AT A HIGHER RISK?
COVID-19 is a new disease, which means scientists and public health experts are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes and to what extent it may spread in the U.S.
Early information shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this virus. This includes older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or a serious medical condition, it is extra important for you to take actions to avoid getting sick.
· Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
· When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
· Avoid crowds as much as possible.
· Stock up on supplies.
o Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
o If you cannot get extra medications, consider using a mail-order option.
o Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
o Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible.
STEPS TO HELP COPE
People may be experiencing many different emotions like fear, anger, confusion and disbelief. These are all normal feelings in this type of situation. Their reactions appear in different ways, not only in the way someone feels, but in the way they think and what they think about; their sleeping habits, how they go about daily living; and the way they interact and get along with others. Here are a few steps to help people cope:
· Stay informed through trusted resources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but limit exposure to media coverage, especially for children.
· Spend more time with family and friends and offer your support.
· Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.
· Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as fear, anger, frustration and anxiety.
· Encourage children to express their feelings and thoughts. Reassure them about their safety.
· Relax your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate or pray, or engage in activities you enjoy.
· Pace yourself between stressful activities and do something fun after a hard task.
Many people have experience coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like, and it influences their relationships with their family, friends and others. Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk and are likely to need extra care and help.
If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for two weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance.
· Crying spells or bursts of anger
· Difficulty eating
· Difficulty sleeping
· Losing interest in things
· Increased physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
· Feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless
· Avoiding family and friends
If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).