How to support health care workers battling COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life for everyone, but -- aside from coronavirus patients and their families -- no one more so than health care professionals. Like firefighters, they're rushing into burning buildings while everyone else runs out.
Globally, more than 100 health care workers have already died from COVID-19. Given the critical shortage of PPE -- personal protective equipment -- they're literally risking their lives to save ours. We know from previous outbreaks that, long after this is over, they'll be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, depression and anxiety.
Even those who aren't directly on the front lines -- say, social workers in nursing homes -- are under tremendous stress, something I've witnessed firsthand in my advocacy work. So are hospital janitors, food service staff and essential workers at every level.
If you're a lucky health care consumer, you've only been affected indirectly by COVID-19. Perhaps you're worried because you can't visit your parent's nursing home. Or frustrated because your doctor appointments were postponed. In that event, please be patient -- and remember the purpose is to keep you safe and healthy.
Personally, I'm intensely grateful for the doctors, nurses, EMTs and other health care workers waging this war, and I know many others feel the same. With that in mind, here are eight ways you can support our health care workers battling COVID-19:
• If you have access to PPE supplies, donate them to a hospital that needs them.
• If you're friends with a nurse or other health care professional, drop off a bag of groceries when you do your own shopping. They do not have time or energy to shop now. Or arrange to have a favorite meal delivered. Just ask first.
• Don't hoard food and supplies. Just take what you need and leave the rest for your neighbors. Then there will be enough to go around.
• If you can, donate blood -- there's a shortage -- and you can donate safely. Visit redcrossblood.org for details.
• Consider making a donation to local hospitals or charities that support them to help purchase more PPE.
• If you're exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. Don't go rushing to the hospital unless you're directed to do so.
• Just stay home! Follow Illinois' shelter-in-place order. If you must go out, practice strict social distancing. Wear a mask as directed by the CDC, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others, and wash those hands frequently.
• Stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Rely on trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) and the World Health Organization (who.int), and stay abreast of Illinois' COVID-19 response team (coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/). Rules are changing as we learn more about this disease, but be wary of myths and rumors -- they can be harmful instead of helpful.
Finally, be kind to all the essential workers you encounter: your doctor's receptionist, grocery store clerks, your mail delivery person. They're working for us under terrible conditions. Be generous with your "thank yous," and do your part to flatten the curve so they won't need to be at risk much longer.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area's senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com.