BY CRYSTAL GONDER
At the best of times, caregiving, while rewarding, is also a difficult, stressful, exhausting and often thankless job.
As COVID-19 has turned all of our lives upside down, caregivers can feel more isolated than ever before and without access to many of the resources they depend on. From caregivers with aging parents and children at home, to essential workers worried about exposing vulnerable loved ones, to families overwhelmed in quarantine, the coronavirus is stretching our carer community thin.
If you’re a caregiver tackling daily demands during this pandemic, it’s likely that you are at the very bottom of your priority list. It is always a challenge to find the time and energy for self-care, but when your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for will benefit as well. Here are a few tips to help you feel a little more calm, healthy and in control during the pandemic:
While we must be physically apart, social distancing does not mean being alone. In moderation, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can be positive ways to stay in touch, and video conferencing apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype may provide the face-to-face connection we are all craving. Use these platforms to play games, listen to music, watch a movie, eat a meal or even have a dance party together with someone outside of your home. If you feel overwhelmed by these technologies, there are a lot of easy-to-follow tutorials online that can help. Checking in on a neighbour or another parent or two from a safe distance, sending a hand-written note or making a phone call are other ways to create a sense
Limit information overload
The constant media coverage of the coronavirus may be adding to your anxiety and distress. As a caregiver, staying informed and up-to-date
is important to help keep your family safe, but it’s a good idea to set boundaries. Rely on a few trusted sources like canada.ca/coronavirus, your provincial health department or health professional, read updates only once a day and aim to limit social media.
Prioritize your health
The worry and lack of structure that we are all experiencing can make healthy choices difficult. Try your best to eat balanced meals, get lots of sleep and be active every day. Going for walks, exploring free online workouts, taking long baths or meditating will help boost your mood and reduce stress. You can still binge watch your favourite TV show and eat too much ice cream, but be thoughtful and intentional about how you are treating your body.
Find your joy
During this quarantine, if you find you have a little extra time, consider taking up hobbies and activities you enjoy or are interested in. Get out a puzzle, learn to bake bread, finish that knitting project, listen to podcasts, do crosswords or paint a watercolour. Even in short bursts these activities can help take you away from daily concerns. There’s also exciting content online like the Vancouver Aquarium or Calgary Zoo live cams, The AGO from Home online collection or Stratford Festival plays to help you escape the confines of your home. But, don’t feel any pressure to use this time to learn new things and improve yourself—you may just be in survival mode and that’s okay too!
Unite with parents
Whether you connected with a support group prior to the pandemic or not, it’s more important than ever to find people who understand what you are going through. The Ontario Caregiver Organization and Canadian Caregiver Network both offer online caregiving communities to remind you that we are all in this together. Similarly, reaching out to other carers in your life to
talk openly about how the virus has affected you can create both a support system and human connection.
If you are isolating with your loved ones—while you may be the primary caregiver—there are ways for family and friends to help. Ask someone to pick up groceries, medications or run errands, organize drive-by visits and accept any offers for meal drop offs. This is an extraordinary situation and really tough, so be honest with yourself about how you are doing. If you are struggling, teletherapy is now covered by most extended health plans. Otherwise, there are many free, online mental health services available including: Big White Wall, The Canadian Mental Health Association’s BounceBack and Anxiety Canada’s app Mindshift.
No one knows for sure how long this will last, and the uncertainty may be the hardest part of the COVID-19 crisis. During these difficult times, take things one day at a time, set realistic expectations, be kind to yourself and try to focus on what matters.
Crystal Gonder is the Communications Consultant for VHA Home HealthCare.