Fearless Aging: An essential caregiver could be you

Essential caregivers may be allowed access to a skilled nursing facility or senior community to provide assistance

The Illinois Department of Public Health defines essential caregivers as people not categorized as general visitors. These caregivers meet an essential need for a resident of a skilled nursing facility or senior community by assisting with daily living activities or positively influencing the behavior of the resident.

The goal of such a designation is to help ensure that high-risk residents continue to receive individualized, person-centered care. A thoroughly crafted plan of care should include services provided by the essential caregiver.

If you have a loved one residing in a senior community or skilled nursing facility, and they are declining due to the lack of your care and presence, you may be allowed access to the building for up to an hour in order to provide essential care.

All essential caregivers must be screened, COVID-19 tested, and provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). They must maintain a six-foot distance from other residents and staff.

Each community and facility have slightly differing policies and procedures, so it is wise to inquire about their specific rules and regulations.

As you have these conversations, it’s important to understand that caregiving tasks may include, but are not limited to washing a person’s hair, bathing, massages, foot rubs, or even assistance getting fresh air outside.

If the community or facility should experience an outbreak of COVID-19 or other illness, they may temporarily limit or stop the admittance of essential caregivers for a designated period of time.

We realize this is a difficult time, and should you have questions, concerns, or need clarification about the role of an essential caregiver, you can always reach out to Elderwerks Educational Services, a local not-for-profit, at (855) 462-0100 or go the Illinois Department of Public Health website for more information.