Caregivers risk safety to provide patient care

Shannon Gunderson

Two years ago, Tiffanie Janzen opened an in-home care business, Janzen Hopes of Home LLC. Janzen opened the business with the intention of keeping the clients at home, making sure they get care.

 

“I make sure they shower, take meds, and overall I keep them company,” Janzen said.

 

Janzen shared that her business has been hit hard as a result of COVID-19, and that making sure her clients are remaining happy and healthy has been the biggest struggle.

 

In a fact sheet written by Protected Health Information (PHI) it is stated that there are over 2 million home care workers across the United States. They provide personal assistance and health care support to older adults and people with disabilities in home and community based settings. Currently the population of people over the age of 65 is over 88 million.

 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released data that showed that 37 percent of people aged 60 and older with COVID-19 have received intensive care. Roughly 25 percent of confirmed cases have been people over the age of 60. This is an age group heavily represented within nursing homes, or in-home care.

 

Healthcare workers, like Janzen, are trying to adjust to the new uncertainties that COVID-19 brings.

 

“I have weekly staff meetings with my two employees. I am making them watch handwashing videos, and make sure they are wearing a mask before we enter every home and the entire time we are in the home. We are not taking our cellphones, keys, or anything that could possibly be contaminated into any homes,” Janzen said.

 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) sent an email out to all in-home care businesses with guidelines on how to protect employees and residents during an in-home visit from COVID-19. Janzen said that she and her employees have been following these guidelines.

 

Madison Redding, a resident assistant employed at Dove Healthcare,  in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, said that there have been some major changes the nursing home has had to implement.

 

“The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in the door is that every person has to take their temperature,” Redding said. “We wear a mask, and we don’t allow any visitors, so the doors are always locked.”

 

At Dove Healthcare there is only one resident per table allowed instead of four, and the facility has been doing more individual activities with the residents instead of groups. The residents are mostly quarantined to their rooms, but they break the rules sometimes.

“I feel so bad,” Redding said. “They are stuck in the rooms for most of the day, so I try to go into their rooms and talk to them. Some of the residents have window visits, which is the cutest thing.”

 

A window visit is when a family member or friend goes to the window of the room and talks to the resident on the phone. They can see and hear each other, without running into the risk of COVID-19.

 

The biggest problem that Janzen and Redding have both noticed while caring for their residents, is mental health.

 

“A lot of my patients are very depressed and crying,” Janzen said. “They can’t see their families. They couldn’t even have Easter this year.”

 

Redding has also noticed a lot of her residents have seemed sadder during this time.

“We usually have family members come to the building every day,’ she said, “but that cannot happen anymore so a lot of our residents aren’t getting that face to face contact they usually get.”

 

Janzen said that she has been coming up with creative activities for her residents.

“We have been crocheting and watching videos on how to do it,” she said. “We also have been utilizing adult coloring books, puzzles, magazines, and books. Sometimes they just want me to sit and talk to them, to reconnect them to the outside world.”

 

Both Redding and Janzen said that they realize they are putting themselves at risk for working during this time, but they know that they are needed.

“It has been difficult for essential workers in general. It has also been very frustrating to watch the world fight over who is essential and who isn’t. We just need to be concerned about each other’s safety,” says Janzen. “I chose this job because I knew I would always be needed.”

 

The data from the Department of Health Services highlights that 12 percent of COVID-19 cases are healthcare workers.

 

Redding says she wishes people would understand that the safety of those who are at higher risk is the most important thing. “We have a very individualistic culture where people often think about themselves.”

That is not true of Janzen who says she wears a mask to protect others.

“I am wearing a mask everywhere I go,” she said.  “When I go grocery shopping I am shopping for multiple houses, not just mine. So this means sometimes I am spending hours in the store. Some people in the store don’t wear mask at all, which is putting my kids, my patients, and me at a higher risk. We just need to be concerned about each other’s safety.”