Caregiving During COVID-19: Helpful Tips on Staying Safe, Reducing Stress, and Finding Local Supports and Services

Guest Contributors: Maria Donohoe and Emily Winker

Caregivers and care recipients may not have had to change the ways they provide in-home care and support during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not mean that it has been any less stressful. Caregiving can often be an isolating experience even with supports and services provided by an Area Agency on Aging and other providers. During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, however, access to supports and service have changed and, in some cases, are no longer available. A lack of supports and services only increases the extreme stress and feeling of exhaustion that family caregivers often experience.

Family caregiver specialists at the AAAs continue to work with family caregivers to provide support and encouragement during this extra-stressful time. Family Caregiver Specialists are available to help connect caregivers to resources in their communities, provide one-on-one options counseling and emotional support. Here are a few tips to make your caregiving responsibilities easier during this trying time.

In-home safety

  • Place signs in the home reminding of handwashing
  • Keep a supply of hand sanitizer around the home, if safe to do so
  • Take both your temperature and the temperature for whom you are caring on a daily basis
  • Encourage wearing a mask when in public spaces
  • Reduce risk of exposure by having others assist with groceries and other essential items
    • Ask family and friends to help get groceries and deliver to your home
      • Some stores are providing additional services and dedicated shopping hours (see additional information at the bottom of this page)
    • Ask your pharmacy to provide a 30-day supply of your medications
      • Ask family and friends to pick up and deliver your medications
  • If you can, work from home to limit exposure
  • Arrange for telehealth appointments

In-home stress reduction

  • Put puzzles together
    • This activity also exercises the brain
  • Exercise with the person for whom you provide care
  • Video chat with or make a phone call to family and friends
  • Home-delivered meals may reduce the stress of obtaining food and making meals

In times where emotions and stress are running high an increase in burnout can be seen among our caregivers. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that is caused by excessive or prolonged stress. Signs of burnout may include feelings of being overwhelmed and feelings of being physically or mentally drained, exhausted. The good news is that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of burnout.

Exercising is a great way to reduce burnout, as this increases endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in your brain. The exercise does not have to be high intensity. A simple walk around the block can do wonders. Eating a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, proteins, and less processed food has also proven to be a natural antidepressant (Jacka, et al., 2017; LaChance & Ramsey, 2018). Our bodies need time to rest and reset, which is why we must practice healthy sleep habits to reduce the risk of burnout and illness.

Tips to reduce burnout

More caregiving during COVID-19 resources

Grocery Services

Below is a list of grocers and links to their websites. Contact your local grocer to find out about special shopping hours or delivery options available to you. Please note that we are not endorsing any grocer or service listed. There may be fees from the grocer or from associated services. You are encouraged to contact your local grocer to learn more.

References

Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., Castle, et al. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med, 30(1). Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28137247

LaChance, L.R. & Ramsey, D. (2018). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World Journal of Psychiatry, 8(3), 97-104. Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6147775/

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