Parents, grocery store workers, teachers and everyone in between have had to adjust to a new normal during the current COVID-19 pandemic. No one is exempt from feeling the effects of social distancing and that includes caregivers.
Social distancing, while the best public health practice at this time, has some potentially unfortunate consequences to the health of older adult caregivers and their loved ones.
One San Antonio man is experiencing these consequences first-hand. He used to spend most days with his wife, who lives in a memory center. Now, he’s feeling distressed about not being able to assist her with meals, encourage her to walk or provide her with the social connection that was integrated into her routine.
This can leave caregivers feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the very real concern for the safety and wellbeing of their loved ones.
UT Health San Antonio’s Caring for the Caregiver program has had to discontinue all upcoming public events, including classes, workshops, socials and arts-focused events. They have adapted some of their regular programs to online formats including the choir, memory café, and recorded educational sessions.
Sara Masoud, Community Outreach Coordinator for the program offers some tips that were shared from caregivers that can help in coping with the negative side effects of social distancing:
- Take frequent walks
- Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your loved ones more
- Go for a drive
- Take photographs in nature
- Start a gardening project
- Take small breaks and read
- Video call with family members
- Try a new recipe
One caregiver is using this time to research her family tree and sort through old photo albums with her mother who is living with dementia.
Though this time brings stress and uncertainty to many, the Caring for the Caregiver team have not stopped their mission: to improve the quality of life for family caregivers and those they care for. They immediately stepped into action by calling every family in their database living with dementia to check in on them and identify their needs.
“From this, we have learned some important lessons about the type of support family caregivers and their loved ones are seeking at this time. We have found that these calls and any personal connection we can provide is essential to ensuring they feel supported and cared for, particularly during these unprecedented times,” said Sara.
The simple act of checking in has provided caregivers with an opportunity to talk about themselves and their needs.
Listening to their needs, the Caring for the Caregiver team compiled resources and created a space within their Caring for the Caregiver site where family caregivers can refer should they need support.
Sara encourages all caregivers that wish to sign-up for a regular newsletter, through which they will receive important updates and resources, to complete the Contact Us form on their website.
As we all look forward and navigate day to day in this reality, Sara shares a token for all of us, “one person living with dementia offered possibly the best advice from which we can all benefit: be kind to yourself.”