Christensen, 56, is his dad’s primary caregiver. The role requires him to traverse the street between their homes every hour or so to prepare Reed’s meals, administer eye drops, deliver groceries, manage finances, and, above all, keep him company.
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, much attention has been devoted to flattening the curve of the disease while also raising the line of health care system capacity. In other words, keeping people out of the hospital.
Many of the individuals required to turn those ideas into reality reside outside the traditional health care settings. They are responsible for preventing potential patients’ deterioration in the first place, and helping patients discharged from the hospital recover and rehab at home.
These largely unrecognized workers include personal care aids, community health workers, and home nurses. They also include family caregivers, like Christensen, whose role has only grown more critical in the coronavirus era.
Even in normal times, caregivers like Christensen are the bridge between the hospital and the home by providing services and companionship to dependent adults and children. During COVID-19, this role has only intensified as families have sought to avoid exposing their vulnerable loved ones to the virus. Doctor’s visits have shifted to the virtual setting. Supportive medical services like at-home rehab and nursing have been overwhelmed. Many social services have gone offline too. All of this has come at a considerable personal, emotional, and economic cost to caregivers.
I was trying to influence a situation outside my control by staying awake. I could not prevent my wife’s heart from suddenly stopping in the night....