Providing care to a family member or friend is a challenging role at the best of times.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has become even more stressful. “Caregivers are now faced with protecting their loved ones from a highly contagious illness that is particularly harmful to older adults and people with underlying health conditions”, says Jodi Marrin, Director of Marketing at Bayshore HealthCare.

Here are some tips to help caregivers manage their own anxiety during the pandemic.

How much anxiety is normal?

If you’re feeling anxious, afraid or hopeless about the pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s a stressful situation for everyone, affecting many aspects of daily life and changing how we relate to one another and our environment. Many Canadians are also experiencing financial stress as a result of the pandemic.

While anxiety and stress are common reactions to what’s happening in the world right now, it’s important to take steps to help yourself feel calmer and more in control.

Ways to reduce anxiety

  1. Create a backup plan. Ease your mind by creating a plan for your loved one’s care in the event that you become ill.
  2. Take a break from the news. The flow of pandemic-related news is non-stop, and the information seems to change hour by hour. Consult reliable sources, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization, and unplug periodically from the news and social media.
  3. Treat yourself with kindness.  Acknowledge your concerns and fears. Practise self-compassion. Think about times in the past when you have been resilient and strong. Try to feel hopeful and positive.
  4. Keep a journal. This can help you organize your thoughts, cope with difficult emotions and cultivate a sense of gratitude which is also beneficial for mental health.
  5. Practise self-care. It can be hard to find the time to look after yourself – including exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, seeing friends and doing other things you enjoy – but self-care is essential for caregivers.
  6. Seek support. This will be different for everyone, but sources of support during a difficult time could include friends, family members, support groups, community organizations, crisis lines or health professionals. If you need help to meet your loved one’s care needs, consider professional home care services.

How to discuss COVID-19 with your loved one

The person you care for may also feel anxious about the pandemic, even if they don’t mention it. The topic can be frightening, especially for people who are self-isolating or who live with dementia. They may be alarmed by what they hear or read in the news, or confused by conflicting advice.

It is important to share simple facts about what is going on and to provide information about how to reduce the risk of infection in words your senior loved ones can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. Engage family members and other support networks to help those you are caring for practise prevention measures (e.g. handwashing, etc.).

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