Self-care is always essential for caregivers, but even more so during periods of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the ongoing illness ravaging the country, family members and close friends continue to provide daily care to those in need. And while the everyday demands of caring for a loved one is already a fulltime job, it’s even more challenging when trying to cope with an infectious disease.
During this difficult time, caregivers should develop habits and strategies to maintain their own health and well-being. This helps avoid the risk of caregiver burnout as well as reducing the likelihood of transmission.
Here are some tips for conscientious caregiving in the age of COVID-19.
Reduce the Likelihood of Transmission
As a caregiver, your number one concern is likely for the health and safety of your loved one. To help keep both of you well, follow CDC guidelines for personal hygiene:
To help stop the spread of germs:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Throw used tissues in the trash
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands
- Wash hands frequently, especially
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching garbage
Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19-related news in your area – but don’t obsess over it. Constantly checking your social media feed or the local news can be mentally draining and increase stress. Choose a time each day to catch up on relevant information and don’t look at it otherwise.
Make time for self-care
Your loved one’s well-being relies on your ability to take care of yourself and stay well. To keep yourself healthy and fit:
- Eat balanced meals on a regular schedule
- Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Fit in exercise whenever possible
- Find opportunities to relax
- Take a walk around the block
- Go for a drive
- Try gardening
- Take small breaks and read
- Check out a new recipe
- Try meditation
- Many apps, like Headspace, can help with relaxation and sleep
Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing. It IS possible – and recommended – to maintain your social connections despite not being able to see each other in person.
- Reach out to friends and family for regular chats and wellness checks
- Consider spending time together virtually – watch a movie together or play an online board game
- If you live with loved ones, figure out ways you can have fun together, rather than just falling prey to the doldrums of isolation
Watch for signs of burnout
Caregiver burnout can happen in any situation, but it’s far more likely during periods of high stress. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overwhelming anxiety or depression
- Difficulty completing everyday tasks
Though it may be difficult right now, make time for yourself whenever possible. Caregiving can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting – and if you are not well, you can’t care for another.
Stay healthy, stay safe, and reach out if you feel like you need some outside support.