A Note on COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) For Families/Caregivers using Respite Services and Respite Workers
With the rapidly changing news around the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the constantly evolving updates around how Canada’s public health agencies are responding to — and sharing updates about — the outbreak, we wanted to write you a brief note to you as caregivers/families and workers who have accessed respite supports through our coordinator(s).
First and foremost, please only rely on and refer to the latest information about COVID-19 from trusted experts. The Public Health Agency of Canada and Nova Scotia Public Health will continue to assess the public health risk associated with COVID-19. We recommend you continue to monitor updates from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (Public Health), as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada to stay well-informed on the COVID-19 outbreak.
As someone who works in households, or as a family/primary caregiver who has relied on respite workers, this will prove a challenging time, requiring constant work to strike a balance between respite-support needs and the realities and risks that come with this outbreak. We cannot tell each family and worker how to achieve that balance, but we encourage you all to communicate and to be entirely transparent in communicating any concerns or risks that may arise around how to minimize potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Taking steps to stay healthy will protect you as well as your respite clients and individuals or families. The following steps are important in preventing the spread of any common respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, as well as COVID-19. We encourage everyone to follow these basic habits, which are proven to be effective in minimizing the risk of infection:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60% alc.);
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue (throw the tissue away immediately);
- Avoid close contact (6 feet) with any people who are ill or may have come into contact with (as either a worker or as someone who needs worker support) aware that you are becoming ill*;
*This last point deserves some emphasis. If you are a respite worker, please monitor your health and stay at home when feeling ill—absolutely if you have a fever, or when you’ve developed coughing. If anyone in a client home is exhibiting symptoms, you have the right as an independent contractor to choose not to work in that environment. If you are supporting individuals in multiple different households, be mindful that infection in one household could be carried to others, so it is important to speak with your employers if you have any concerns, or as the outbreak spreads. Be sure to ask the employer about any travel that anyone in the home has taken, and whether they have adhered to the self-isolation restrictions (see below) before you begin a shift.
If you are an employer/family, we strongly encourage you to speak with your support workers about their travel and potential exposure to others who have traveled. If workers are supporting an individual with a compromised immune system, it is particularly important to assess the potential exposure to infection.
This is, no doubt, a difficult time for all, but particularly for those of us who rely on the supports provided by respite. While it’s impossible to predict how events will unfold, we can be certain that clear, open, transparent communication is the best protection against the risk of exposure to the virus. We are available if any questions arise, our coordinator(s) will do our best to help you with your needs as workers and as families/caregivers.
Updated Travel Advice
An official global travel advisory is in effect: Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.
The Province of Nova Scotia, under the authority of the Health Protection Act, is requiring anyone who has travelled outside Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon return, even if you are symptom-free.