Listen To My Latest Podcast Episode:
How Does Ageism & Age Discrimination Affect Older Adults' Health
Listen To My Latest Podcast Episode: How Does Ageism & Age Discrimination Affect Older Adults' Health
November is National Caregiver Month, but I really think this entire year should be dedicated to caregivers for all that they have been through during COVID.
In today’s episode, I share statistics about the toll of caregiving during COVID and 5 self-care strategies for caregivers during COVID.
Family caregivers during COVID are more stressed and overwhelmed than ever before and here are some reasons why:
All together, this means that caregivers have more caregiving tasks, more stress and worry, fewer community resources needed to care for their loved one, and don’t have the breaks from caregiving that are essential to maintaining health and wellness.
Last week, I met with a stressed out and burned out caregiver. Before the Coronavirus Pandemic, the person receiving care (the husband) would have a home health aide 3 days a week and he would attend an adult day program 5 days a week. These resources would help his wife (the caregiver) to continue to work to support them and have a break from caregiving, so that she wouldn't have to give up her whole life in exchange for caregiving. Since the Coronavirus Pandemic started, the husband’s adult day program has closed, and the caregiver opted not to have the health aide come due to her concerns about COVID exposure. As a result, the caregiver was experiencing lots of stress and overwhelm trying to figure out how to work and caregive full-time.
This caregiver is not alone. A national survey conducted between May and June 2020, found that 32.9% of caregivers reported mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or substance use compared to 6.3% of non-caregivers.
This same study found that 30.7% of caregivers of older adults thought about suicide between May and June 2020, which is much higher than other high risk groups like essential workers (21.7%), young adults ages 18-24 (25.5%), Hispanics/LatinX folks (18.6%) and African American/Black folks (15.1%).
This is a very painful time, please take care of yourself. If you or someone you know is in crisis or struggling with thoughts about harming yourself or others, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
To help caregivers weather the storm of caregiving during COVID, here are:
As you begin to enhance your self-care, it can help to identify what gets in your way of taking care of yourself. Take some time to acknowledge the most common obstacles to your self-care.
After you identify your own unique barriers to self-care, think of how these barriers or beliefs originated, for example:
Not only is taking better care of yourself important, so too, is how you think about taking the time for yourself. Shift from the old way of thinking to a new way of thinking. For example:
Here are categories that caregivers tend to have difficulty prioritizing their own self-care in. Take some time to rate how well you are taking care of yourself in each of these categories. Use the scale 0 = poorly to 5 = outstanding to rate how well you are taking care of yourself
Now, select the category that stands out to you most and identify one way that you could start to take better care of yourself in this area. For example:
Imagine what moving toward your self-care goal looks like, identify any problems, then troubleshoot the steps to eliminating or moving past the problems. For example:
With many of the formal caregiving supports unavailable, it's essential to build an informal care team. Asking for help is really hard for caregivers to do, but remind yourself that you're worth it.
It can help to be clear about what you need help with. For example: If you'd like a break every Friday from 12-3pm, ask 3 friends if they'd be willing to spend time with your loved one from 12-3pm on a Friday, maybe one of your friends will say yes, and PRESTO, you'll be scheduled for a break.
Remember: Your health is just as important as everyone else's.
If you’re a family member or friend of someone who’s caregiving, think of ways to be helpful. Can you drop off a meal? Run an errand? Meet up for a chat outside on the patio?
Just last week, a dear friend of mine had to move her mom into a memory care unit after being in the hospital for a few weeks as a result of agitation and delusions with dementia. If you’ve gone through this, you know how incredibly stressful this is. Because of COVID, my friend only had a small window of time to move her mom’s furniture out of Assisted Living. When my friend reached out to me to see if her daughter could hang out with me and my kids for the day, “of course” was the first thought in my mind. And, you know what? We had a blast!!!
If you have insurance, call or go online to see if your insurance covers “Behavioral Health” or “Mental Health”, then look for providers in your network. You can google them to read about them and see if they’re a good fit for you.
Insider Tip: your loved one doesn't have to have Alzheimer's Disease, they can have any type of dementia for you to receive support there!
In wrapping up, I hope you hear the message loud and clear that you are not alone. There are lots of free resources and hotlines available to support you!
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I'm a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist and Gerontologist specializing with older adults and families! As founder and CEO of Gero Champions, LLC and the Psychology of Aging Podcast, my mission is to help mental health and senior care providers meet the mental health and sexual health needs of older adults using up to date, evidence-based, and culturally thoughtful care.
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