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Coronavirus: What a Grandfamily Needs to Know

I can't turn on the television, radio, look at Facebook, Twitter, or Google without seeing another article or post on the Coronavirus or as it is known in official health channels, Covid-19. It has caught my specific attention for several reasons, it’s hard to avoid noticing, I worked professionally as an emergency manager in higher education for 12 years, and I am a Grandfamily. My grandson is four years old and attends a public preschool program. It is his first year in a public school setting and his immunity has been tested and built. In step with every sniffle, fever, and upset stomach he’s exhibited my immunity has been tested. I felt I spent Thanksgiving to early January with cold after cold. My grandson’s ability to remember to cover his cough with an elbow, use a tissue for his runny nose and wash his hands often is limited. He is four.

I write this specifically for Grandfamilies. I have drawn this information from the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For those of us who have school-aged children, especially younger children, there’s some comfort in words from the CDC that there’s no evidence that children are more susceptible, and children (from China)

who have been confirmed with COVID-19 have, “generally presented with mild symptoms. Mild symptoms being defined as a fever, runny nose, and cough. There is concern for older adults the “Grands” of us in Grandfamilies who have underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. In a briefing Monday, March 2, Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, shared that older adults with underlying health concerns with COVID-19 were “about twice as likely to develop serious outcomes”.

You can be proactive. If you have underlying health conditions try to stay isolated from public gathering spaces, ask your physician to approve an extended supply of any prescriptions you’re taking, wash your hands, and if you can’t wash your hands while in a public area don’t touch your face. Currently, there are no organizations recommending the use of masks by the general public in the United States. To be effective in preventing transmission, masks need to be fitted correctly and must be properly removed and disposed of. At this time the only reason why I might use a mask would be as a reminder not to touch my face. Also, if you’re at greater risk for serious outcomes make plans of what you might do if the child in your care does become ill. What will you do to minimize your risk? Many of us became grandfamilies because there were no other options for the children in our care.

Think through your network and determine if there’s anyone who might act as a caregiver if your child gets sick. Could someone come into your home and offer support. For many of us, the answers may be no. Isn’t that case I offer the World Health Organization recommendations for at-home caregivers when a patient has mild symptoms and is quarantined at home.

  • Keep the sick family member in a well-ventilated room (open a window)

  • Limit movement of the sick family member in the home

  • Any areas the sick family member must use keep those areas well ventilated

  • Sleep in areas separate from the sick family member

  • Limit the number of caregivers for the sick family member

  • Perform hand washing after any type of contact with the sick family member or their immediate environment

  • Perform hand washing before and after food preparation, before eating, after using the toilet

  • It is preferred if hands are washed with soap and water over the use of hand sanitizer and if possible dry hands with paper towels

  • Dispose of all items like paper towels as medical waste, keeping separate from other trash

  • To contain respiratory secretions the patient should wear a mask (this is great for young children who forget to cover their mouths)

  • Caregivers should wear a tightly fitted medical grade mask when in the same room as the sick family member

  • Avoid direct contact with the sick family member’s bodily fluids, wear disposable gloves (disposing after each use in medical waste bag)

  • Never reuse gloves or masks

  • Use dedicated linen and eating utensils for sick family members, and these may be washed with soap and water for reuse

  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces

This last bullet, clean and disinfect all surfaces, now has direction. The EPA released a list of approved cleaners strong enough to kill pathogens more virulent than COVID-19, so are recommended to combat COVID-19. However, it is important to read the labels of how long a cleaner or disinfectant must remain on a surface before wiping away to be effective. For example, according to Lysol’s Website, it is recommended for the disinfection of any surface from any pathogen Lysol must be sprayed and left of the surface for at least 10 minutes before wiping. For a complete list of all cleaners and disinfectants the EPA recommends go to http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020

As I learned more about COVID-19 I realized these recommendations are important not just now, but always. Flu, Norovirus, the cold of the month are all circulating and can put us at risk. As a Grandfamily it is more than just care for ourselves we must be concerned. We need to stay well for the children in our care who depend on us. So even if COVID-19 does not spread across the country I am still practicing these precautions and suggest you do too.