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 April 06, 2020

Coronavirus: Caring for Your Family

Man and woman hugging with their eyes closed while standing in a living room

Ensuring Your Families Protection During Coronavirus

Looking out for your family’s health and safety is normally your number one priority, and that instinct is heightened in the midst of our current coronavirus pandemic. We’re all looking for guidance and direction to prevent our loved ones from contracting the virus while managing the effects of the economic fallout on our jobs and businesses. And that stress is only magnified should one of our family members need medical attention for a potential coronavirus infection; you’re then trying to work your way through an already complicated medical system, now overtaxed and more restrictive, making it even harder to be with your loved one and help with medical decisions.

Fortunately, there are guidelines in place to help us avoid the spread of coronavirus and things we can do to make sure that our families and our businesses are taken care of throughout this period of unprecedented uncertainty.

Frequently Asked Family Concerns Amid Coronavirus Crisis:


Government Orders

Unlike many other countries around the world, the U.S. has no nationwide measures in place restricting movement and activities, so what you are permitted to do during the crisis varies greatly based on your state and city. It’s slightly confusing as to what rules are in place in your area and what you’re allowed to do, especially given that avid consumers of the news see different measures across the nation rolling out daily. That’s why you need to have some clarity as to the terms and your rights and responsibilities in the current situation.

What rights do I have if there is a government order about my movements? 

Depending upon where you live and the orders put in place, you may have considerable latitude to leave your house, or very little. Most stay-at-home orders give people the right to travel to and from work if they have a job deemed essential, as well as to grocery stores and other locations for necessary tasks. Non-essential workers and non-essential travel is prohibited in those areas.

And states are serious about enforcing the orders, with possible penalties for violators. States like California, New York, Oregon, and others have threatened fines and possible jail time for those not abiding by the restrictions put in place.  Beyond the penalties, most governors and mayors have made pleas with their constituents to stay at home and follow the rules for the greater good; if the potential penalties aren’t sufficient deterrent, then hopefully civic duty is.

What is the difference between stay at home and shelter in place? 

We’ve all heard the terms “stay-at-home” and “shelter-in-place” used interchangeably when discussing orders from state and local authorities looking to slow the spread of the coronavirus by limiting movements. But what’s the difference between the two? The answer depends on where you live and what orders your local government has issued if any. Typically, a shelter-in-place order is in emergencies like a tornado where they require you to stay where you are and not evacuate for all but essential workers. A stay-at-home order similarly requires people to stay indoors but permits leaving home for those that have to go to work, exercise outdoors, bank, or shop for groceries.

In practice, most statewide directives referred to as shelter in place orders are stay-at-home orders. At present, all but a dozen states have issued such orders with most preventing citizens from going to work at non-essential workplaces but allowing them to address needs like buying food or seeking medical attention, and even permitting for outdoor exercise, provided they adhere to basic social (physical) distancing practices.

Another question many workers might have is whether their work will be considered essential for the purposes of a stay at home order. Again specifics vary from state to state, but broad federal guidelines are laid out by the DHS as to the 14 sectors considered essential for maintaining our infrastructure:

  • Healthcare/public health
  • Law enforcement/public safety/first responders
  • Food and agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Public works
  • Communications and information technology
  • Other community-based government operations and essential functions
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Hazardous materials
  • Financial services
  • Chemical 
  • Defense industrial base

Regardless, you should check local news and state websites for more guidance on what orders are in place in your area, and with your employer to see if your work is considered essential. You should also contact your LegalShield Provider Law Firm for consultation and guidance.

Dealing with the Virus

Given the ongoing spread of COVID-19, it is certainly possible that someone in your family will contract the virus at some point. And while we hope for the best, we have to be prepared in case the effects of the disease are serious enough to require medical attention.

Am I allowed to go with a family member to the hospital if they might have COVID-19?

Given the volume of patients that hospitals are now being required to treat, people are being asked to make use of telemedicine and to keep and treat family members at home until more urgent care is absolutely necessary. Should you have to avail yourself of a hospital to treat a family member with the coronavirus, there are a few things to be aware of below:

For children that need to go to the hospital, parents should be aware that parents are generally required to give consent for emergency medical care; however, doctors can treat a minor patient without waiting for parental consent if immediate care is needed to prevent significant harm to the child. Because of the infectiousness of the disease, your child may need to be placed in isolation, and while there are typically steps and measures for isolation in cases of infectious diseases, the widespread nature of the coronavirus has required states and hospitals to introduce new limitations on visitors. (For comfort, it should be noted that, according to CDC data, as of March 16 less than one percent of hospitalizations for coronavirus were for people under the age of nineteen, with no reported cases of ICU admittance.)

Hospital visitation rules and restrictions vary from state to state, and to further complicate matters, many hospital chains have also instituted their own guidelines on visitors for COVID-19 patients. Given the number of institutions implementing rules, generalized statements that would apply in every situation or to every hospital are not helpful, but broadly speaking, every state or hospital guideline has exemptions for at least one parent to be at the hospital with their minor children.

In the case of adults, be they adult children, elderly parents, or family members in between, the answer is more complicated. Be prepared that adult patients may not be allowed visitors during the crisis.

Having a healthcare power of attorney and other estate planning documents in place is crucial for all adults, given how quickly a seemingly healthy person may be facing critical healthcare decisions that they are unable to make themselves.

What documents should I consider related to healthcare?

  • Advance Directive or Living Will.
    An advance directive or living will is your documented wishes for your medical care in the event you’re incapacitated and unable to communicate them. An advance directive can be paired with a healthcare power of attorney to ensure your instructions are followed.
  • Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and Do Not Resuscitate Orders. Depending on the state, a POLST and a Do Not Resuscitate Order are similar but not the same. Neither are intended to replace the Advance Directive. A patient with a serious illness can communicate to doctors what interventions they should or should not take with emergency treatments.
  • Durable  Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
    A durable power of attorney for healthcare gives your representative the authority to make decisions about your medical care in the event you’re not able to. You can grant the power immediately or only upon your incapacity.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release.
    A HIPAA release allows your doctor to share protected health information and updates about your condition with your family and other individuals you might designate; without it, they may be left in the dark.

Taking Care of Your Family

During this time it’s more important than ever we be able to look after and provide for our family, but circumstances have made that increasingly difficult: daycares and schools are closing; businesses are struggling, and some of those who most need our assistance are better served by keeping away. While it’ll be a struggle, we can manage using the tools and aid available to working families to navigate the crisis.

What can I do if I don’t have childcare?

The closure of most childcare facilities has left parents in a bind, forced to either try to find someone to watch their kids while they go to work or trying to balance working at home with caring for their children. Fortunately, new laws have put measures in place to help parents hopefully avoid those dilemmas.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, the Family Medical Leave Act was amended to allow parents to take up to twelve weeks of leave to care for a child that is out of school or daycare due to coronavirus shutdowns. There are some stipulations — you have to have been employed for thirty days to qualify, and the twelve-week leave consists of two unpaid weeks and ten weeks at two-thirds of regular pay — but it does prevent parents from having to make a hard choice between keeping their job and caring for their child.

What can I do to help my elder parents?

Seniors are facing a difficult time as the CDC labels those over 65 years of age and those living in nursing homes or assisted care facilities as being at higher risk for severe illness. Many are smartly self-isolating to the greatest extent possible, and those with underlying conditions may be restricted to their home altogether. It falls upon children to help their older parents at a time like this, and that means being prepared for any eventuality.

Having a durable power of attorney for finances for your parents can allow you to handle their financial affairs if they are unable to leave the house to do so themselves, or should they fall ill and require hospitalization. The benefit of a durable power of attorney is that it remains in effect upon incapacitation, so if your parents have already designated you to act on their behalf in managing their finances, you can continue to do so while they’re under medical care. Your parents would need to seek their advice and assistance from an attorney for their estate planning.

Trying to take care of your family has never been more challenging. Talking with a LegalShield Provider Attorney about any legal needs or questions that might arise during this crisis is one way to ensure your family gets the help it needs.

This is not intended to provide medical advice. You should seek advice and assistance from a medical professional as needed and take the appropriate steps in the event of a medical emergency. LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.


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