The good news: COVID-19 was not at issue when then-64-year-old Ginny Valenze had to quickly and independently assemble caregiving help for herself after suffering a very serious medical emergency while out of town.
The bad news: It still required an array of often-confusing calls and wide outreach to friends and neighbors that left her feeling utterly vulnerable and, as she said, “terrified.” Never mind that her own profession as a patient advocate for pharmaceutical companies stretched for more than 20 years.
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"You don't ever think this is going to happen to you — until it does,” says Valenze, now 70, who never married and lives on her own in Whippany, New Jersey. She was the caregiver for her late father, and assisted with the care of her mom and one sister, who both died when she was a teen, but ironically, she says, she didn't have her own self-care plan in place. Another sister lives much too far away to be of daily assistance. “Your world can turn upside down in an instant, and the older you get, the more likely it will."
Her best advice: Make a plan. This is particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's what five caregiving experts suggest an older person who gets the coronavirus — but has no spouse or close family to assist with caregiving arrangements — can do. Their tips and advice hold up in a non-COVID-19 emergency, too.
• Call your doctor first. If you have a physician and suspect you are sick with COVID-19, your very first call must be to your doctor, says Amy Goyer, AARP's family and caregiving expert. After your appointment — and presuming you are not hospitalized — it is your doctor's office that can likely assist with home health care, if needed. Keep in mind, says Goyer, if the home health care is ordered from your doctor, your insurance company is more likely to cover the costs.