Even under normal conditions, a caregiver’s responsibilities can feel overwhelming at times. But in today’s environment, caregivers are facing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety.

Every day, media reports about the COVID-19 pandemic bring us news of stock market drops, layoffs and supply shortages. Schools are closed, putting added pressure on caregivers who also have children in the home. Business closures are also increasing concerns about job security and future finances.

It’s enough to put even the most physically and emotionally healthy people in a state of shock and overwhelm.

For caregivers, the levels of stress and anxiety are only amplified by the responsibilities of caring for an older adult with dementia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Caregivers who are looking after someone with Alzheimer’s have the added concern of preventing the illness from infecting those in their care while still managing all of the behaviors associated with dementia.

They must also find time to shop for food, take care of other family members and follow enhanced sanitation and hygiene standards. All of this is made even more challenging by the loss of access to in-home assistance and social and behavioral health services.

Psychological Fallout From COVID-19

In a recent article in Autism Spectrum News, Michael B. Friedman LMSW, a mental health policy advocate, said the world needs to prepare for the “psychological fallout” of the pandemic.

“Although most people living through a pandemic or natural disaster generally will not develop new diagnosable mental or substance use disorders, some will. Many will experience exacerbations of PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis or substance abuse,” he said.

“In addition, a great many people will experience less severe but very troubling emotional issues. The stress of major disruptions in life and of responsibility for the survival of family and friends can be very difficult to manage. Loss of income can be deeply troubling. Isolation due to quarantine or the loss of in-home supports for people with disabilities can have significant psychological consequences. For some people, confronting mortality may also stir up troubling emotions. And the deaths of people one cares about will undoubtedly result in grief,” said Friedman.

Family caregivers will be especially vulnerable to the emotional issues Friedman references. According to the National Center on Caregiving, looking after a loved one under even normal conditions can lead to feelings of agitation, anxiety and distress.

Caregiver Resources for Coping with COVID

To help you take care of yourself while taking care of your loved one, we’ve compiled tips published by the experts for coping with stress and anxiety during the pandemic.

  • AARP: Seven Ways to Cope With Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak
    The AARP recommends staying in touch with friends and family via tools like video chat. Using technology to chat “face to face” instead of just over the phone can help prevent feelings of social isolation, which is a trigger for a variety of health issues.
  • CDC: Stress and Coping
    Turn off your TV, says the CDC, and go easy on social media. Nonstop news updates about the pandemic can be stressful and upsetting.
  • WHO: Coping With Stress During the 2019-nCoV Outbreak
    The World Health Organization advises against using cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs as coping devices. They say it’s more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep and enjoying a healthy diet and exercise program.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Disaster Distress Hotline
    The Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 is open to anyone experiencing emotional distress as a result of a disaster, including the coronavirus pandemic. The toll-free hotline is open 24/7 and provides crisis counseling in more than 100 languages. A crisis counselor is also available via SMS by texting “TalkWithUs” (for English) or “Hablanos” (for Spanish) to 66746.
  • National Alliance for Caregiving: COVID-19 Resources for Families
    In this tip sheet, The National Alliance for Caregivers suggests practical solutions such as using mail order to fill prescriptions and arranging grocery and pharmacy deliveries to ease the challenges caused by the pandemic and prevent stress.
  • Fast Company: 10 Science-Backed Strategies to Try If You’re Stressed About COVID-19
    Journaling, mindfulness and craft projects have all been proven to help reduce anxiety levels. This article also offers a breathing exercise you can use to help calm your mind at night.

This is a stressful time. It’s okay to be anxious and afraid right now. By honoring your body’s needs, you’re better equipped to be the best caregiver to your loved one — and yourself.

To learn more about independent living, assisted living and memory care at Sonata Senior Living, contact us today or schedule a virtual tour.

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