Stay at Home Tips: What to do if you are a family caregiver

See more Extension Stay at Home Tips from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension

For reliable information you can trust about COVID-19 go to


What to do if you are a family caregiver

Family caregivers have a lot on their plate. When we are practicing social distancing, it can feel like we are doing everything ourselves. It is normal to feel overwhelmed or burdened. 

How can you cope with this new mode of living in a way that maintains your well-being? 

Acknowledge your feelings

This is a challenging time for caregivers. Whether you live with the people you care for or live apart, you may have more stress than usual. It is OK to acknowledge your feelings, good and bad.

Develop a plan

Post a contact list on your fridge or near your phone. If you have a smartphone, program these numbers into your phone and take a picture of your contacts so you have them all in one place:

  • Doctors’ names and phone numbers
  • Family contacts
  • Other frequently called numbers, such as the pharmacy

Know what you will do if you or someone in your household becomes ill

  • Follow the steps in Guidance for Family Caregivers” from the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources.
  • If you do not live with the person you care for, call or text every day if they become ill or feel unwell. If they need medical care or advice, they should call their doctor. If they have an emergency, call 911.
  • Create a support system and back up plan. Who will care for your loved one if you become ill? How will you tell them you need their help? How will you communicate what you need them to do?

Take good care of yourself

  • Nurture positive emotions. Stop negative thoughts by saying “stop” out loud when you have one. Notice and savor moments of joy or calm. Practice mindfulness.
  • Ask for help before you are overwhelmed. Call your local Aging and Disability Resource Center, 2-1-1, or the Caregiver Help Desk (855-227-3640).
  • Look for ways to decrease demands on your time right now where possible. Can you ask a friend to order groceries for you? Can you pause any projects that aren’t needed right now or don’t bring you joy? 
  • Get enough exercise, sleep, and fresh air to feel healthy and well.
  • Recognize when you can take a break, and use that time to recharge. Can you take a few minutes to yourself while your loved one naps, talks on the phone, or enjoys a television show? What is one thing could you that would leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed, or energized? 
  • Consider a new hobby or revive an old one: learn a new language, take up knitting, try line dancing, play bridge online. The possibilities are endless!
  • Reach out to friends and family for support.
  • Use caregiver support programs to connect with other caregivers:
    • Caregiver Teleconnection – weekly live call-in events as well as archived programs all relating to caring for someone who is older or disabled.
    • AARP Family Caregiver Line: (877) 333-5885 for help in English or (888) 971-2013 for Spanish
    • Institute on Aging Friendship Line – crisis intervention hotline and a warmline for non-emergency emotional support calls:  800-971-0016

For more information, ideas, and tips:

Know the basics about COVID-19

FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION YOU CAN TRUST, about staying safe and what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, go to

What are the symptoms? Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms. For many, symptoms are mild, with no fever. It is important to know that you can still spread (transmit) the virus to others even if you have mild or no symptoms. Two to 14 days after exposure, people may experience:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

If you become ill, stay home and call your doctor if you feel you need medical care or advice. If you are having an emergency, call 911. 

  • Each day, write down your symptoms so you can share accurate information with your doctor. 
  • Make sure a family member or friend knows that you are unwell and ask them to check on you by phone or video chat every day. Even mild illnesses can quickly take a turn for the worse.
  • Practice good self-care. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

How can I lower my risk of getting COVID-19?

  • Stay home as much as possible to protect yourself and others.
  • When possible, shop for two weeks of groceries at a time to expose yourself less often.
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after touching door handles, keypads, pens, and other frequently used surfaces.


  • Call the National Disaster Distress Helpline to speak to a trained crisis counselor
    • 800-985-5990
    • 800-846-8517 (TTY)
    • Or text:  TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Access information and resources to help you meet your immediate needs
    • Call 2-1-1
    • Contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center

See more UW-Madison Division of Extension Stay at Home Tips 


This page is optimized for printing
Support Extension