As COVID-19 spreads across the nation and throughout the world, millions of people are coping with its effects. In some families, individuals who previously relied on the help of professional caregivers (whether outpatient or in-home) have now been unexpectedly thrown into the role of providing vital care for those most vulnerable to the disease – be it an aging spouse, parent, or other close friend or relative.
Caring for a loved one can be a fulfilling experience, but it’s important to be mindful of the physical, mental, and emotional toll caregiving can have on our lives – especially during a pandemic. By taking a moment to assess the specific challenges we may encounter and determine a plan of action, we can create a caregiving environment that is beneficial for everyone involved.
Whether you’re just beginning your caregiving journey or simply regrouping as COVID-19 seems to keep changing the game, consider the following tips to set yourself up for a successful and empowered experience. And remember, there are always resources available to help you.
As a primary caregiver, you’ll likely need to understand and manage your loved one’s financial, legal, and medical affairs. Being prepared and storing all important documents in one place can help alleviate any unnecessary stress when this information is needed. You may also consider creating a schedule that details the routines and nuances of a loved one’s care. Keep a file in an easy-to-reach location, such as a nightstand, to allow quick access to information.
Practice Open Communication
Caregivers shoulder many responsibilities, but one of the most crucial is the ability to effectively communicate with family members and other care providers. If you’re a family caregiver, it’s important to plan for the inevitable tough talks that may be needed with older relatives. Ask your loved one about her needs and priorities, and be prepared to communicate these preferences with others. If you’re still working, make sure to let employers know of your new responsibilities.
If you have become the primary caregiver and it’s getting to be too much, don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept someone’s assistance if they offer. Discuss specific tasks that your siblings or professionals can help with such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, or respite care at home. Make the most of support groups and online resources such as HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com, and help lines or chats like CaregiverAction.org to find answers to your questions, share ideas, and talk with experts and other caregivers.
Take Care of Your Own Health
Caregiving should not cost your physical and mental well-being. Remember to prioritize your own needs when providing care to others. For instance, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you relieve stress. Try small changes first: eat a good breakfast, drink plenty of water, and have healthy snacks on hand. When it comes to exercise, try to fit in what you can, even if you only have ten or fifteen minutes.
Minimize the Risk of COVID-19
During these unprecedented times, it’s important to take precautionary recommendations from trusted public health agencies like the CDC to help prevent the spread of the disease. Wear a mask indoors if you are going into a friend or loved one’s home. Wipe down surfaces you frequently touch such as light switches and countertops, avoid close contact with those who are sick, and wash your hands for at least twenty seconds with soap and water. Consider postponing non-essential doctor visits until the spring or help arrange a telemedicine appointment instead.
Some days as a caregiver will be challenging. Just remember to look for the small victories and happy moments throughout. And, remind yourself often of the love you hold for the senior who needs you. For more information on how to remain positive and provide care for your loved ones, visit CaregiverStress.com.