COVID-19: Top Caregiver Questions

COVID-19 has greatly impacted caregiving. Protecting caregiver safety, health and stability as you are on the frontline is more important than ever.

Below are some answers to the top questions coming from caregivers right now. We recognize that there are still great challenges you may be facing and these answers will not address them all. This page will be updated as more is learned about COVID-19 and what is being done to address the outbreak.

Questions answered below include:

How do I get PPE?

There is an international shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) used to protect caregivers from exposure to respiratory droplets (the primary transmission method for COVID-19).

SEIU 775 and SEIU 775 Benefits Group are working with state and local governmental health agencies to prioritize caregivers for PPE when made available. You can view recommendations for PPE (in response to the shortage) sent to local officials from leadership.

Free gloves for caregivers are available to some Individual Providers (IPs) through their clients’ health benefit. Please visit the webpage for instructions.

If any new information is available about gloves or other PPE, it will be posted in this section of the website.

In the meantime, there are some actions you can take to protect you and your client:

  • For tasks that are not hands-on, maintain 6 feet of distance.
  • If you run short on gloves, wash your hands with soap and water frequently and substitute garden or kitchen gloves.
  • If your client is sick and a mask is required, their face can be covered with other materials, as long as they don’t restrict breathing and they can be secured. Bandanas, kitchen towels made of light fabric, etc., while not ideal, can still offer some reduction in transmission. If only one mask is available, use it on your client.
  • Bring a change of clothes to work and place these away from your client. When you are done with your shift, change into clean clothes and place dirty clothes in a plastic bag for laundering.
  • Caregivers should have minimal contact with soiled items. For instance, dirty sheets can be carried in a laundry basket that is later disinfected, and caregivers can minimize the transfer or objects by offering a tray of food rather than handing off and collecting individual items.
  • All surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected. If disinfectant products are unavailable, use a paper towel dipped in 70% or greater isopropyl or squeeze hand sanitizer onto a paper towel.

What do I do if I'm sick?

If you become ill with any of the common symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, cough, fatigue, achiness: 

  • You may not need to go to a doctor unless your symptoms become severe (for example, trouble breathing; see separate recommendations about high-risk populations below). 
  • If you are having mild COVID-19 symptoms and would like to see a doctor, please call first or seek virtual care.
  • In addition to not going out of your home, try to isolate yourself in a room away from other family members, and do not handle pets while sick.  
  • Use a dedicated bathroom, if possible. 
  • Open windows in your home (if temperature allows) to increase ventilation.
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever or cough, you should isolate yourself for 14 days from the start of the first symptoms.

If you are considered vulnerable to COVID-19 — over age 60, pregnant, immuno-compromised, or with an underlying condition like diabetes, heart or lung disease — you should: 

  • Let your physician know about your illness, even if mild. 
  • If you do not have a doctor, schedule a virtual doctor’s visit to seek advice. Several healthcare clinics in Washington state are offering free, virtual visits to those with symptoms of COVID-19.  
  • If severe symptoms come up, such as trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

What do I do if my client is sick?

Please see two publications from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS):

What if I lose hours?

There are several reasons caregivers are losing hours right now. Your particular situation will dictate what options are available to you.

SEIU 775 has several resources on their website. In particular, see the Lost Hours section of their COVID-19 webpage. In addition to a list of various resources like unemployment and worker’s compensation, they have a quiz available that can help determine which resources are right for you.

How can I get more hours?

Many healthy IPs are losing work hours due to COVID-19. If this has happened to you and you want to continue working, try Carina, the website that connects caregivers with clients. There are currently a high number of jobs available that you can apply for. 

On the Carina blog there are also resources that might help you through the process of finding a new client as well. Read the blog to learn: 

  • COVID-19 questions that a client may ask you. 
  • Where to get the latest COVID-19 information, and hygiene and safety precautions. 
  • Tips for conducting safe interviews.

What are some resources for financial help?

COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty about financial security. These are stressful times. To get help right now, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has created a list of financial resources, from mortgage payment help to utility payment emergency assistance programs and more.

As more resources become available, they will also be posted to the COVID-19 Resources page.

How can I get access to continued healthcare?

For a limited time, if you work fewer than the required 80 hours per month due to COVID-19, you can still get continuous health insurance if you have health coverage through SEIU 775 Benefits Group. To get started, visit the Caregiver Continuous Health Coverage webpage

If you do not have healthcare through SEIU 775 Benefits Group, please see the “COVID-19 Health Benefits” webpage.