Caregiving during the coronavirus pandemic

Within the last several weeks, Oklahoma, along with the rest of the United States and the world, entered an unprecedented time. As COVID-19 continues to spread, public officials have implemented new policies regarding social spaces, increasing to shelter-in-place orders across the state.

Kris Struckmeyer, Oklahoma State University Extension assistant specialist, said many families are left to figure out how to both work from home, as well as help continue their children’s educations.

“But for some families, it isn’t about trying to figure out ‘new’ math or brushing off their geography skills, but instead, how to best care for an aging relative,” Struckmeyer said.

Coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted by close contact with an infected person through droplets produced when they cough or sneeze. Another way the disease can be transmitted is coming in contact with a surface or object that has the droplets on it, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. Some symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. While some patients have reported mild cases, individuals with weakened immune systems, such as older adults or those with asthma, are at an increased risk for severe – even deadly – respiratory symptoms. 

“So, what can caregivers do to protect themselves and their loved ones? First and foremost, it is vital as the caregiver to keep yourself well,” he said. “Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Caregivers also should avoid crowds. This has become a little easier as people are sheltering at home.”

Other tips include coughing or sneezing into the bend of your elbow or a disposable tissue and cleaning frequently touched surfaces in your home. This includes mobility and medical equipment.

Not only do caregivers need to keep themselves well, they also need to keep their loved one well, too.

“To help reduce the risk of exposure, take your loved one to the emergency room only if they’re having difficulty breathing or a very high fever,” Struckmeyer said. “Otherwise, your best bet is to call your healthcare provider. Check into telehealth options. Medicare has expanded the benefits for telehealth.”

He also suggests helping your loved one remember to wash their hands. Caregivers could even put written notes around the house with reminders. For those fortunate enough to have hand sanitizer in the home, keep it out in the open so it serves as a visual reminder to use it. Also, have an alternate plan in mind in the event that you as the primary caregiver becomes ill.

“In these times, it’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t isolation. Encourage your loved one to think beyond their circle of friends and reach out to neighbors or congregation members,” he said. “Thankfully during this time, technology can help with social distancing while still feeling in touch. Show your loved one how to video chat with a loved one or make the call yourself and hand off the phone.” 

While technology is a wonderful tool to use, going old-school can be just as much fun. Struckmeyer said. Ask other family members and friends to write letters or cards to help lift your love one’s spirits.

“Above all, always ensure your loved one feels included. As we are all homebound during this unprecedented time, it may be a good idea to ask your loved one to complete a project,” he said. “Be sure that the project is something that excites them and keeps them engaged, though it does not need to be a large project. This also is a great time to get your loved one to tell stories of their youth. Record short videos or audio tapes to capture these precious memories.”

Co-Parenting for Resilience – class for parents of minor children and are going through a Divorce or Separation:  during the COVID-19 pandemic, no face to face classes will be held at Jefferson County OSU Extension.  Online classes are available for a Course Fee of $55 and are accessible at

Contact your county judge prior to registering to see if online classes are acceptable for him/her.  Face to Face classes will resume when it is determined safe to do so by Center of Disease Control and by State Guidelines.

Oklahoma State University, as an equal opportunity employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action.  Oklahoma State University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all individuals and does not discriminate based on race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, or veteran status with regard to employment, educational programs and activities, and/or admissions.  For more information, visit https:///

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers are a hot item these days, usually unavailable in stores. So some consumers have found “recipes” for making them at home. However, FDA recommends that hand sanitizers should not be made at home. If made incorrectly, hand sanitizers can be too weak and be ineffective, and there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizers that are too strong. Click on the attached link to learn more and help answer consumer questions about hand sanitizers.

Barbara Brown

Food Specialist, Associate Professor

Department of Nutritional Sciences

Oklahoma State University

301 Human Sciences

Stillwater, OK  74078-6141

P: 405.744.6940

Oklahoma Home and Community Education (OHCE)

When the call came reporting Homemade Fabric face masks were needed by healthcare professionals to help protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic, several Oklahoma Home and Community Education groups began using their sewing skills and created over 20,000 masks (and still counting) which were donated to various hospitals and clinics.  There were some 4-H members who also made masks, but it is unknown at this time how many were made by the 4-H groups.  If you would like to become a member of one or both of these groups in Jefferson County, contact Tara Brown, Jefferson County OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences/4-H Youth Development.


Easy Apple Turnovers

A cross between a cake, cookie and a bowl of oatmeal, this make-ahead treat is handy to heat up and have for a quick healthy breakfast or snack. You can add a touch more brown sugar if you like it sweeter and a splash of milk for more creaminess.


• 1 6-inch circle or circle-like piece of pie crust or puff pastry – you can use scraps that you’ve re-rolled together, this isn’t a fussy dessert

• 1/2 small or 1/4 large peeled and cored apple

• About 2 tsp. brown sugar

• About 1 tsp. flour

• Sprinkle of cinnamon

• Thin pat of butter (about 1 tsp.)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay the circle of dough on a baking sheet. Put the apple half or quarter on one side of the circle.

2. Sprinkle the apple with the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Top with the thin pat of butter.

3. Fold the dough in half, covering the apple piece. Crimp the pastry edges together.

4. Bake until the crust is nicely browned, about 40 minutes.

Makes 1 Easy Apple Turnover