Tips to Help Caregivers Handle the Challenges of Covid-19

Making contingency plans and staying virtually connected with others can make it easier to navigate through this time.

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- Posted on May 14, 2020

A woman happily talking on the phone.

Lisa Weitzman, LISW-S, is the WeCare Manager of Business Development at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

Information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) is in the news 24/7. You hear about the importance of social distancing and self-isolating and what to do should you or your loved one show symptoms of illness. But there are some important things to keep in mind as a caregiver during this challenging period. You can take a number of measures to better protect the older adult in your care, both physically and emotionally. It’s also vital to address your own needs. The following suggestions may help you to respond to this situation in order to keep both you and your loved one safer.

Tips for your loved one’s care:

· Come up with a plan to meet your loved one’s needs in case of an emergency. Go over it with family members and neighbors and draw up an emergency contact list. Find out whether your loved one’s doctors can fill prescriptions to cover additional days, and if so, ask them to do that.

· Take preventive measures. Make sure to wash hands and clean surfaces often. Self-isolate, and leave home only when necessary. Choose a specific room to use in case one of you becomes ill.

· Make a contingency plan based on how your loved one’s day programming or home care schedule changes based on the developing situation in your state.

· Attend to your loved one’s emotional well-being. This situation can be stressful for older adults. Have conversations about what you’re doing to better protect him or her.

· Put hygiene at the forefront. Place written reminders around the home to help your loved one maintain cleanliness.

· Keep in mind that your loved one may be lonely, and look for ideas to meet his or her need for social interaction. Staying connected is important for everyone, and this quarantine can be especially confusing and unnerving for older adults, who may have a hard time understanding why no one has come to visit lately. There are ways to keep even those who are not particularly tech-savvy in touch with friends and family.

· See that your loved one adheres to a regular schedule. Sticking to a routine can help both of you to feel a bit more grounded and stable during this uncertain period.

· Encourage your loved one to stay occupied by reading, or enjoying favorite music or films.

· Have regular phone conversations, if you don’t live together, so that you can feel closer.

Tips for your self-care:

· Stay informed – but try not to focus too much on news of the pandemic.

· Don’t neglect your own emotional well-being. It is natural to experience stress, anxiety, and worry. Self-care can help you to think clearly in the present and to recover more quickly afterwards. Give yourself respite periods to unwind, and do simple things that make you happy. Practice mindfulness using meditation apps, such as Calm and Headspace. Several offer free trials or discounts at the outset.

· Keep in touch with people you love by talking on the phone or texting. Provide reassurance, but remember that it’s okay to ask for it too.

· Nurture your physical self. Take this time to eat nutritious meals, exercise and get the sleep you need.

· Identify things to bring color into your day. Take in movies or TV shows you particularly like, or even the opera online. Indulge in a creative passion. Make time every day to get outdoors for some fresh air.

· Fulfill your own need for social interaction. Despite the quarantine, there are ways to stay connected with others – and it may be more important now than ever to maintain your support network. Try FaceTiming or video chatting with friends, if either appeals to you. Try a virtual dinner or coffee date. Keep in touch via social media.

· Maintain a hopeful eye to the future by holding to whatever brings you joy and peace.

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