As we pause to reflect on the first half of 2020, we recognize that COVID-19 has touched the dally lives of everyone. The restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 relating to interactions with other people have been especially consequential to caregivers.
Whether you are caring for your spouse, for an elderly parent, or for a disabled child, the struggle to provide care cannot be underestimated during normal circumstances.
During the last few months, this struggle has proven to be even more difficult and more isolating.
For many caregivers, adult day care typically can provide respite, or for some, the ability to work. However, these support services have not been open during COVID-19, and any future plans for them to open come with restricted times and hours. Caregivers have also been wrestling with whether or not to bring health care workers into the home, and many have decided not to do so, due to the guilt of possibly bringing germs that could make their loved ones ill. Contact with family members outside of the immediate home has also been limited, leading to many caregivers’ reluctance to rely on other family members to come into the home to assist with care.
The challenges of adapting and transitioning to this new “normal” continues, but there are positive steps that you can take to help.
The following are ideas for caregivers, and others to better cope when they are feeling stressed:
Put a name on what you are doing. Caregiving isn’t just helping out. It’s taking on the responsibility for the well-being of another person. The quicker a person identifies her/himself as a caregiver, the quicker he or she is able to recognize and deal with the roller coaster of emotional stressors that come with the journey. Poor or interrupted sleep, feeling isolated, irritability and resentment are all normal responses to caregiving. Knowing that you are experiencing what every caregiver goes through can help you deal more effectively with those feelings.
Create areas of separation. It is crucial to carve out time and space that is still yours. If your loved one requires constant supervision, the use of headphones while reading or listening to music can be helpful.
Maintain your lifelines. Reach out to others. Social isolation can be emotionally and physically harmful. Take advantage of technology, with e-mail, text, video chats to connect with others.
Embrace change. A caregiver’s journey requires flexibility, adaptability and the ability to let go. Most of the things that are causing feelings of emotional fatigue are out of your control. Recognizing limitations, giving yourself permission to let go and delegating some of the responsibilities can help.
Find balance. Remember hardships existed before you were a caregiver. There is just a lot more that is “difficult” now, and these things often feel huge. But also remember, the only one to care for you is you. Take a walk, play a round of golf, meditate, get a massage, buy yourself some flowers, do something that gives you joy and makes you smile.
Recommended reading: AARP Meditations for Caregivers. This book has been recommended for people who are taking care of someone who is ill. We have ordered it and will let you know in our next newsletter our review.
Finally, here are some statistics from the CDC about caregiving. Not surprisingly, as the number of older Americans increases, so will the number of caregivers needed to provide the care.
- The number of people 65 years old and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.
- It is expected that there will be 71 million people aged 65 years old and older when all baby boomers are at least 65 years old in 2030.
- The CDC states that currently there are 7 potential family caregivers, per adult. By 2030, there will be only 4 potential family caregivers per adult.