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Caring for the Caregiver in the Age of COVID-19

Monday , May 4 , 2020

Caring for the Caregiver in the Age of COVID-19

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

Stay informed

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

Stay connected

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

Final thoughts

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.

Posted in: Caregivers

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Senior Citizens Face Isolation and Loneliness During Quarantine

Monday , April 13 , 2020

Senior Citizens Face Isolation and Loneliness During Quarantine

Throughout the country, people have been instructed to limit face-to-face interactions with individuals outside of their immediate household. These measures help stop the spread of novel coronavirus.

Many family members have had to end visits to parents and grandparents or have had to stop seeing older loved ones in nursing homes and assisted care facilities.

The implementation of physical distancing is essential in keeping the community healthy – especially those aged 60 and older who are more likely to get admitted to the hospital and to die from the disease.

Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, told ABC News, “The frail elderly are particularly at risk because of limited (or impaired) physical mobility, less autonomy, increased vulnerability to infections and immunological depletion, cognitive decline, chronic health conditions, lower injury thresholds and higher recovery times.”

Unfortunately, the efforts come at a hidden cost: Physical distancing may be causing social isolation and loneliness in many of the nation’s older adults.

Social Isolation and Loneliness 

Social isolation (the state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society) and loneliness (a sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people) are not the same thing.

For many people, however, especially older adults, social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness.

Those aged 60 plus often live alone, and when faced with a situation where they’re not supposed to leave the house, they are less likely than younger adults to maintain connections with other people.

While isolation and loneliness can have negative effects on people of all ages, it is especially damaging for seniors. Persistent feelings of loneliness have been linked to higher risk of certain mental and physical health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease – and even death.

Chronic isolation and loneliness may also manifest as changes in routine and self-care, where older adults suddenly stop bathing or eating meals on a regular schedule.

Helping Older Adults Combat Loneliness 

Experts say there are ways to help older loved ones combat the sense of loneliness, even when you can’t be there with them. Here are some ideas, from WebMD:

Send a Care Package

Due to physical limitations or lack of transportation, it may be harder for older loved ones to get to the store. And even if they can venture out on their own, they shouldn’t.

To help your older loved one stay safely in place, consider putting together a package of things you know they’ll need, such as non-perishable foods, over-the-counter medicines, and supplies such as tissues and toilet paper.

Drop off these items at your loved one’s front door or order them and have them delivered.

Schedule a Weekly Video Call

Schedule a time each week to call and check in with each other. For older adults that aren’t comfortable with technology, a regular old phone call will do – but research finds that interacting through technology improves feelings of loneliness and depression in older adults. Now may be the time to teach grandma how to use Zoom or WhatsApp (from a safe distance, of course)!

Watch a Movie Together

You may not be able to get together in person, but technology today makes it easy to have a virtual movie night. Streaming services like Netflix Party and Metastream will let you chat with each other while you watch your favorite films or television shows. Now someone just has to come up with a way to virtually share popcorn…

Host a Book Club

If your older loved one isn’t keen on the idea of technology, maybe they’d prefer a virtual book club.  Now is the ideal time to catch up on that pile of books you’ve had in your “read next” pile for the last several years!

Have one person choose a book for everyone in the family to read each week and at the end of the week, have a group phone call to discuss. If your senior parent or grandparent doesn’t own the required novel, you can easily ship it to them via Amazon or send it to them digitally via Amazon Kindle or another reading app of their choice. 

Write Letters

Letter writing is a neglected art these days – and perhaps one that your older loved ones miss. Take this opportunity to tell your friends and family what they mean to you on paper. It is likely something they will cherish for years to come, even after quarantine is over.

Try AARP Community Connections

AARP’s new online platform, Community Connections, helps users find and organize local volunteer groups to provide financial, emotional and other support to those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re unable to communicate with your older loved ones as often as you’d like, this service may be able to connect them with others who can provide the necessary assistance.

Final Thoughts

Quarantine can be frightening, disheartening, and lonely – but it also presents a great opportunity to find new ways to create connection. Use this time to grow more united and build stronger relationships between parents, grandparents, kids, and other friends and family. Right now, it’s more important than ever before to connect and unite!

Posted in: Aging

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Things to do at Home When You’re Under Quarantine

Monday , March 23 , 2020

Things to do at Home When You’re Under Quarantine

I never thought I’d start a blog with, “Things to do at home when you’re under quarantine.”

Strange times indeed.

But now that you’re stuck in your house with no end in sight, you may be wondering, “What should I do?”

No one can go to restaurants or museums or the theater. Senior centers have cancelled gatherings and classes. In some communities, even the public parks are closed.

That doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your friends and loved ones, keep your mind engaged, or even have a little fun!

Here are some creative ways to pass the time and remain social:

  1. Phone a friend. In today’s day and age, it seems like no one talks on the phone anymore. They text or email or chat online. But when you’re missing that daily face-to-face interaction with others, nothing beats hearing a loved one’s voice. Think about all those old friends you haven’t heard from in ages – wouldn’t it be nice to take this time to catch up?

  1. Start a workout routine. Exercise has a slew of benefits for older adults, from increased muscular strength to improved mental health. In fact, several studies show that exercise can increase life span. Why not use this time to start a home workout routine? There are plenty of workouts you can do at home – just be sure to check with your physician first to find out what’s safe for you.

  1. Read a book. Almost everyone I know has a “to-read” pile of books at home. Use your time at home to read all those novels you’ve been buying over the years but haven’t had a chance to pick up. Have a difficult time reading for extended periods? Try an audio book instead!

  1. Binge a new television show. It’s difficult to justify spending hours in front of the television when there are more important things to do. But being under quarantine is a special circumstance, and many people are using the time to catch up on television programs and movies. Reach out to friends and loved ones to see what they recommend, then spend a few days binging a new show.

  1. Commune with nature. Even under lockdown, most communities still allow citizens to take a walk around the neighborhood. Walking around outdoors is a great way to soak up some sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. Even better? Experts say that going outside can help improve memory, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. Just remember to stay at least six feet away from your fellow walkers!

  1. Cook something new. If you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, now is the perfect time to perfect some old favorites or to try something new. YouTube is full of cooking videos geared toward home chefs. Because the classes are online, you can pause, rewind, and go over each step as many times as necessary until you get it right. Need an ingredient that’s not already in your pantry? Use home grocery delivery instead of venturing out to the store on your own. Delivery greatly reduces touch points and, therefore, your risk exposure to illness.

  1. Take a virtual tour of your favorite museum or zoo. Now that COVID19 has the world locked up in their homes, hundreds of museums and zoos are making their exhibits available online – FOR FREE! Check out Google Arts & Culture for some ideas. Local options include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Valley Forge National Historic Park, and the Philadelphia Zoo.

Tell us: What are you doing to keep your mind occupied during this difficult time? Have you come up with any creative ideas not listed here?

Posted in: Health

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