Resources for caregivers during the coronavirus crisis

With the COVID-19 outbreak putting stress on the world’s public health infrastructure, the role of patient caregivers has never been more vital. If you are a caregiver for a dialysis patient, there are resources available to help keep you and your loved ones healthy during the pandemic.

  • The American Kidney Fund (AKF) has put together a comprehensive webpage with information about the coronavirus and resources for patients and caregivers, which is being updated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. AKF’s patient resource guide lists patient hotlines for several dialysis companies, directories for assistance with medications and food, and mental health resources.

  • With AKF’s new online Grants Management System (GMS), patients and caregivers can now submit their own grant requests directly to AKF. If you have already submitted grant requests with a social worker’s help, you may still register in GMS to track your AKF grant payments and enter future grant requests. If the patient in your care receives AKF grant payments directly, direct deposit/automated clearing house (ACH) payments may be available to them. With direct deposit/ACH, patients get their grants faster, any potential issues with postal delivery are avoided, and patients do not have to worry about exposing themselves to COVID-19 by visiting their bank to deposit a paper check.

  • The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) has developed the Caregiving and the Coronavirus fact sheet with tips for caregivers, including preventive steps that can lower the chances of infection. FCA also hosts online support groups for caregivers.

  • Per the COVID-19 checklist for older adults from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here’s how caregivers can help their loved ones of any age prepare:
    • Know what medications your loved one is taking and see if you can help them get an extra supply.
    • Monitor food and other medical supplies that are needed. If supplies are running low in your area, you can help your loved one create a back-up plan for getting kidney-friendly foods and supplies.
    • Stock up on kidney-friendly foods to have on hand in your home to minimize the number of trips you take to the store.
    • If you care for a loved one who lives in an assisted facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the facility’s protocol if there is an outbreak.
    • Find out if your loved one’s medical providers offer telehealth visits. If they do, you can help make sure your loved one knows how to access this service and is set up with any online accounts or app downloads they need. If a provider does not offer telehealth services, ask if the patient can communicate with the provider by telephone, instead of in-person visits. You can also find out how to reach the provider during this time if you have questions about your loved one’s health.

  • The CDC has also developed household checklist for a COVID-19 outbreak in your community.

  • It is absolutely necessary for kidney failure patients to continue receiving regular dialysis treatments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, unforeseen circumstances may lead to your dialysis facility being closed or not able to provide treatments. To help your loved one, you can ensure that they have the supplies to follow the 3-Day emergency kidney diet. This emergency diet does not replace the need for dialysis, but it can be lifesaving for a patient who is temporarily unable to receive treatment.

  • AARP’s Home Alone Alliance has developed a series of family caregiving how-to videos and resource guides for caregivers on specific medical and nursing tasks, including preparing special diets, managing incontinence, wound care, mobility, and managing medications.

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About the Author(s)

Dan McDonough

Dan McDonough is the associate director of patient services at the American Kidney Fund.

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