Few caregivers double as secret service operatives and yet that is the skillset demanded of those charged with caring for the elderly in this moment of global crisis. The novel coronavirus arrives undetected, recruits silent carriers, and kills indiscriminately. The most sophisticated government organs struggle to effectively trace its movements and control its spread. What’s more, it’s not just after lives; Covid-19 also has the global economy in its sights. Described in these terms, it appears more a Bond villain than a virus.

If in caring for an aging loved one, you’ve thought I’m not trained for this, you’re absolutely right. Few are. And yet with a little planning and preparation, you’ll find that protecting those most at risk is less daunting that it may seem.

First, and you’ve heard this before, remember to wash your hands, practice social distancing, avoid crowds, and protect the elderly in their homes. None of this is revolutionary but it need not be. In a media landscape focussed on the complexity of halting the pandemic, it is easy to forget that preventing contagion, itself, is simple; it’s the broader issue of eliminating the risk altogether which is complex.

Second, though related, is the need to ensure that all those who enter the home of the person for whom you are caring are, themselves, safe. While it’s true that you never know and cannot control other people’s actions, you can exercise reasonable caution. Follow the guidance of long-term care facilities. Take peoples’ temperature before they enter the house, inquire about whether they have experienced any of the cardinal symptoms in the past two weeks, and, if they get a pass, ensure they wash their hands thoroughly before touching anything inside.

Third, as you practice the above and take respite in knowing that these simple measures work, avoid any unnecessary news consumption. After all, the headlines are, frankly, frightening and it is easy to allow broader, existential worries about the future to provoke unnecessary worry about how best to take care of those most at risk. Yes, the economic forecast is bleak, yes, the national response has been, at times, infuriating, but none of this means that simple measures to avoid contagion are any less effective.

Finally, take time now to update or establish a durable power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive. Doing so does not mean admitting that the days are counted for the elderly person within your care. It simply means that you acknowledge Covid-19 is a real threat. It is the same reason you wash your hands: peace of mind comes from knowing you have taken reasonable precautions. The odds are you won’t have any use for these documents any time soon but knowing they are updated and in place means knowing that you are doing all you can to care not only for the elderly, but for their life’s work and legacy.

Should you need help drafting or updating these or any other relevant estate planning documents, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We’d even be happy to share tips on hand-washing though for that you might be better off simply watching this video.

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