Caregivers need supplies, consideration, and patience
March 27, 2020 — Caregivers have a lot to teach the rest of us, as we splash bleach all over our clothes and try to use our phones while wearing rubber gloves or breathe into a mask without fogging up our glasses. Caregivers already know what it means to protect other people from day to day contaminants.
Lucy Denickerson works with five clients, privately as well as through IHSS (In Home Supportive Services). Even without a pandemic, she has plenty to do. With a pandemic, she says, Clorox wipes and Lysol are her guns. She uses them to protect her charges, who have Alzheimers, dementia, or cancer. We sat about ten feet apart using separate microphones that had been sanitized. Just to be on the safe side, she wrapped her microphone in a Clorox wipe, which she held with a gloved hand as she described her new routine, sanitizing every surface, explaining why it’s out of the question to go to the hairdresser or the grocery store, and keeping herself as calm as she can. “An activity that may have taken me forty minutes is taking me double the time. And when I have to leave that client to go and take care of another one, I don’t want to leave any of them with undone business. But I cannot be stealing time from the others, so I definitely have to be reminding myself, taking priorities, what things I may just have to leave on hold until the following day, and the important things for me to do before my time is up.”
Earlier this week, state leaders from SEIU Local 2015, the IHSS caregivers union, sent a letter to all the counties’ Boards of Supervisors, asking that caregivers get more of what they need, including protective equipment, paid time for the extra tasks involved with keeping workers and clients safe from the virus, sick leave, and training.
Rachelle Schockley takes care of her daughter, who has cognitive challenges as well as frail physical health. She notes that another cause of shortages is the panic shopping that overtook the community as the realities of the virus began to sink in.
“I think that the hardest part has been access to the things that we need to keep her safe, because she is a high risk person, having immunodeficiencies and things like that, very susceptible to respiratory infections and pneumonia. It’s very critical that she has access to things like gloves and masks, sanitization, hand soap; and the concern that I have is that everything has been wiped off the shelves, everywhere...it’s kind of like a first come, first served market, so by the time people like us get to a store to do those important things, everything is cleaned off the shelves already.”
Sometimes they use their own money to buy what they need. And sometimes, what they need is caregiving, from the rest of the community.
“If you see a person with gloves and a mask, you obviously know, oh, ok, they’re either immune compromised, or they’re going home to someone who’s elderly or at high risk,” Schockley said, “You know, give the space.”
Denickerson says that what she needs the most is patience, so she can stay calm for her clients, who are easily upset. It’s important for her “Not to be reacting to the lack of items...if I cannot find the milk today, I will find it tomorrow,” she promised. “You will have it for breakfast.”