ATLANTA – While hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, home care workers are working to keep up with a surge in demand. Many families are increasingly depending on home care workers to take care of their vulnerable family members amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Home care does everything for me that I can’t do for myself,” Betty Anne, a 90-year-old who has been using home care for two years, said. “During the pandemic, I feel safer because I’m home, alone, with just them.”
90-year-old Betty Anne before she began receiving home care. (Courtesy of Betty Anne)
Eric Pritchard said his family also chose home care for his aunt, who had a stroke and heart attack several years ago.
“After she had a stroke and a heart attack at the end of 2019, it was hard for her to maintain herself at home,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard said during the pandemic, home care was the best option to keep his aunt safe.
“It’s been a Godsend. It would be nearly impossible to take care of her without someone here during the day,” Pritchard said.
Across the country, home care workers are seeing a spike in new patients.
Jadawnya Bostock owns We Care Home Care in the Atlanta area. Her facility works to connect families with home care workers.
“Once COVID hit we started picking up a lot of clients because a lot of family members are wanting to take their families out of nursing homes, they’re wanting them to be home because now they can’t visit them due to COVID,” Bostock said.
Eric Pritchard’s Aunt Judy receives home care on a daily basis. (Courtesy of Eric Pritchard)
According to the National Association of Home Care and Hospice there’s a 125 percent increase in demand for home care workers.
William Dombi the president of NAHC, said the demand intensified in March and has been a full force ever since.
“It is a viable and probably more protective environment for care for individuals that are trying to avoid the virus,” Dombi said.
Although many patients are vulnerable to the virus, Dombi said home care workers are at risk too.
“By our estimations, there are tens of thousands of actively infected COVID patients under the care of home care providers today. We’ve also seen deaths.. we have had home care workers die from COVID-19,” Dombi said.
Home care workers are doing several things to limit the spread of the coronavirus. On top of wearing masks and PPE, home care groups are making sure workers are taking care of the same patient routinely to avoid contact with multiple people.
“It’s not scary at all… and I’ll tell you why… we have all of our PPE, we have our masks, we have our gowns, and we make sure that if our caregivers go out of town, they have to quarantine for 14 days before they can return back to our elderly’s home,” Bostock said.
Although home care workers have been on the frontlines for other viruses, they say those don’t compare to COVID-19.
“This is totally unprecedented. I mean we’ve dealt with issues of SARS and the bird flu and those kinds of things, but none manifest itself with the intensity that we have seen here,” Dombi said.
The Pritchard family said home care workers sacrificing their own health to help their patients make them heroes.
“It makes things so much easier, especially on the family of the person to know that someone is taking care of them, to know that they’re being fed, to know that they’re getting a bath every day,” Pritchard said. “Those small things that once you can’t do them for yourself, they become precious.”