Tuesday Tips for Caregivers~ Coping with Stress During a Pandemic
The New England Journal of Medicine published an article in April describing the potential consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has for mental health. In it, they describe the various social, political, and financial implications of the pandemic and how it can impact the psychologies of everyone living through this time. For example, the socio-political events surrounding the pandemic may lead to increased anxiety and depression as a result of job loss, financial strain, more loneliness, and less social interaction. In addition, health workers are already overburdened by the increase in demand for health care that caring for mental health becomes more difficult in this time. While mental health struggles can impact people of all ages and backgrounds, we focus today on caregivers and their aging loved ones. Specifically, we cover how to handle, to the best of your abilities, the stressors that come from a rapidly changing situation.
Aging populations and their family caregivers face a unique challenge that many others do not face. One the one hand, older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk of having severe symptoms of COVID-19. On the other hand, family caregivers face similar anxieties about the pandemic, as well as handling the challenges that come along with caring for an aging parent or loved one. Aging individuals may be increasingly isolated from other family members due to prescribed physical distancing precautions. Likewise, caregivers have to pay particular attention to whom they are exposed since they interact closely with their aging loved one. As a result, loneliness can become commonplace, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Throw on top of that fears (and realities) of unemployment, conflicting information, political uncertainty, and the list goes on. How can we handle all this?
There are several tiers of support and levels of adaptation to cope with the stress and anxiety of this moment.
(1) If you need immediate help: If you or a loved one are experiencing a crisis due to increased stress and anxiety, then call 911. Or you can consider these other resources and hotlines:
- The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with some in English or 1-888-628-9454 to speak with someone in Spanish
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
While we focused one those hotlines that are relevant for caregivers and aging populations, this is not a comprehensive list. Please visit this CDC site for many more hotlines that may be helpful for your particular situation.
(2) Rely on technology to connect: Increased loneliness may mean more time indoors or spending the days by yourself or with a select few family members. But this does not mean you cannot “visit” your friends virtually. Rely on freely available technologies like Zoom or Skype to make video calls to talk to friends. You can also use messaging apps, like WhatsApp, to make phone calls and video calls. The only requirement is to have access to wi-fi. If you do not have consistent access to wi-fi, then rely on your cell phone to make calls to other loved ones. Try to stay as connected as possible during this time of physical distancing. It can mean a lot for both caregivers and aging loved ones.
(3) Have a daily routine: One of the best ways to manage stress and to avoid increasing anxiety or depression is to have a daily routine of healthy habits. This can include morning/evening exercises, like taking a walk, stretching, or using exercise bands. If you are a caregiver, you may need to think of a daily routine for your aging loved one, like taking a walk around the neighborhood, gardening, daily chores, and the like. Whatever your preferred routine is, plan it and write down something for every day of the week. Try to include as many healthy activities as possible, like exercise, meditation, healthy meals, etc.
If you need any other advice or need resources for caregiving, then please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.