Taking care of others throughout a health crisis is especially challenging. The impact of a pandemic, coupled with the added responsibility of caregiving, can have quite an effect on mental health for family caregivers.
NPR recently reported the current health crisis has affected family caregivers’ mental health at a much higher rate than those who are not caring for adult family members. Some research shows caregivers are finding it particularly stressful if they’re caring for a loved one with dementia (watch the video here).
Here are a few action items to help support mental health:
1. Be Kind to Yourself. “These are unprecedented times,” says InnovAge Director of Chaplain Services Kelly Crabbe. “Routines have been upended, so do the best you can and be okay with things being different than they were before.”
2. Take News Breaks. Repeatedly hearing or reading about COVID-19 and other world events can be upsetting. Be sure to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories – including social media. If social media helps pass the time, be sure to follow accounts that are positive or share fun posts frequently.
3. Maintain Personal Health. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep, and move your body. Yoga is a great alternative as it effectively manages stress, depression, and anxiety.
4. Make Time to Unwind. Participate in activities you enjoy or rediscover a hobby such as crafting, coloring, knitting, or reading. Look up online videos to learn something new.
5. Call a friend. Stay connected with friends and family through phone calls, instant messages, or online video conferencing.
6. Seek help. Talk to your primary care doctor. Counseling is more widely available with telehealth. If you need immediate help, call one of the free 24/7 hotlines available nationwide
While some stress can be good for us, too much of it can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. It’s important for family caregivers to stay tuned into their loved ones to be sure they are getting the support they need – and to be sure they are taking care of themselves, too.