The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a changing situation.
Make sure you get the latest facts and guidance from reliable sources like: Center for Disease Control (CDC) and your state and local health boards.
Helpful CDC links
Caring for someone else during COVID
Senior Living Facilities
If you cannot visit a parent or family member in a senior living facility
1. If your parents can operate their phones, call. Check in with them more than you might have in the past. Use the call to listen to their concerns and alleviate your own. If you hear anything disconcerting – that they haven’t eaten or that they need assistance – reach out to the facility staff.
2. Consider shipping a Grandpad or other tablet to your parent so you can connect “face to face.” If you do this, make sure your parent will be able to set up the device or that staff member will be able to assist.
3. If, due to hearing or sight loss, aphasia, or cognitive decline, your parent cannot operate a phone, ask the facility staff what plans they are putting in place for connecting residents to families. If they don’t have a plan, request that they help your parent with a regularly scheduled call- understanding, of course, that the staff is operating under unique and stressful conditions and may be short-staffed.
4. Ask the staff if they are facilitating Skype calls or Facetime sessions between residents and family members. If they are not, ask them if they can.
5. Write to your parent. Remember letters? Send your parent a card or a note to let them know they are not forgotten.
6. Ask questions. Mass General Hospital suggests, “People who have lived through economic depression, wars and other hardships may not be as likely to express unhappiness about the confinements of quarantine. If you suspect that your loved one is keeping negative emotions internal, it is important to communicate with them that it is okay and healthy to express difficult feelings in conversations with people they trust. While they may not necessarily ask for it, creating a space of self-awareness and compassion for them during these unprecedented times can be a tacit need.” Ask your parents about their mood, sleeping and eating habits. Report any concerns to the senior living staff.
Moving a parent
If you are questioning whether or not to keep your parent in a senior living facility or move them in with you, the Alzheimer’s Association has a list of questions to consider.
Caring for someone with dementia
While there is no reported increased risk of COVID-19 for dementia patients, the isolation and fear has taken a toll on many. The Alzheimer’s Association has a great resource for dementia caregivers.
For tips on communicating with a dementia patient right now, here’s a helpful video: Talking to a parent with dementia who is in lock down due to COVID-19
Caring for someone at home
If you are caring for someone at home, Working Daughter has a list of activities to keep your parents busy. Activities for aging parent isolated due to the coronavirus
If you are struggling with caregiving tasks like wound care, incontinence, and special diets. The AARP has a great How-to Video Series for caregivers.
If you employ paid caregivers to support your parents, Hand In Hand has a state-by-state guide on how to be a fair employer during the coronavirus outbreak as well as tips for managing attendants/caregivers during the coronavirus crisis. Check it out here.
As a caregiver, you know how critical it is that you take care of yourself. Follow CDC guidelines for protecting yourself. Avoid crowds, close contact, and touching your face. Wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. If you or someone you care for has corona or flu-like symptoms, inquire with a primary care physician about testing.
In addition to taking precautions, now is the right time to prioritize self-care, despite – and because of – how stressed you may be. COVID-19 is increasingly affecting people’s mental health. Taking time to sleep, eat well, practice mindfulness and exercise are not selfish – they are selfless acts. Read this article from Working Daughter on 7 incredibly simple ways to practice self-care when you are a caregiver.
Our favorite self-care resources
Meditation app: Insight Timer
Subscription-based, at-home exercise: Daily Burn
Substance abuse support: Lionrock.Life
Music: Working Daughter playlist.
Finding meaning in difficult situations can help us heal and build resilience. By focusing on 1.what you are grateful for 2. whatever silver lining you can find and 3.what lessons you have learned, you can shift your mindset. Use the worksheet included in your email to capture your thoughts.
Asking for help
According to the CDC, two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women. Working daughters are at higher risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety. In addition to caring for yourself, practice asking for help. Read this article on overcoming barriers to accepting help. Also, checkout a free app from Ianacare that makes coordinating help easier.
Online support groups are great ways to connect with other caregivers who understand what you are going through. If you haven’t already, join the Working Daughter private Facebook group recognized by The New York Times, Verywell Health magazine, and A Place for Mom as one of the best support groups for caregivers. Click here for a list of 6 additional caregiver support groups.
Create a plan
Perhaps one of the greatest stressors for caregivers is what will happen to the person they care for if they get sick. As Joan Baez once said, “Action is the antidote to despair.” So create a contingency plan. Just like you should have for your parent or family member you care for, create a folder with all of your medical information including: a healthcare proxy, advanced directive, list of medications you take, your primary care contact info, and any other information you would want medical personnel to know.
In addition, document the care you provide for your family member including assistance with daily living tasks and schedules for meals, sleeping and activities. Keep this information with their medical information.
Next, identify a family member, neighbor or friend who can step in in case you are indisposed. Make sure they know where all of the above paperwork is and have a key should they need access to your home.
Dealing with grief during COVID
Whether you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 or not, chances are you are experiencing some level of grief this year. We are all grieving life as we once knew it, togetherness, and a sense of security. Know that grief is a normal response to loss and that loss comes in many more forms than just death. The loss of how things used to be, how your parents used to be, your ability to get together with friends and family, a job or financial security – all of these losses can trigger grief.
You should also know that grief manifests in many different ways for different people. Grief can feel like sadness, exhaustion, anger, anxiety. Grief can feel physical – aches and pains. Grief can cause indigestion and insomnia.
If you are grieving, be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge your grief and feel the feelings. Identify what helps you cope – talking to friends or a therapist, getting rest, spending time outside, being alone or with others. If grief knocks you down, aim to do the next best thing. For example, if you wake up one morning and feel like you can’t face the day, then just aim to get up and brush your teeth. Then aim to eat breakfast, or get dressed, or start one work task or one caregiving task. Some days you will thrive with your grief and some days grief will slow you down. Know that grief changes and subsides and your feelings today will not necessarily be your feelings tomorrow, or next week or in a few months. Do your best to make healthy decisions – eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep and exercise. These things can be difficult to do when you are grieving but they do help you cope.
Be cognizant of your grief and how it impacts your work. Most workplaces are not skilled at identifying and dealing with grief. This is why it is so helpful to practice as much self-care as you can muster – so that you can muster your energy to perform your paid and unpaid work. If it feels appropriate, let your manager know you are dealing with some personal challenges and propose a plan for how to get your work done. If you do detailed work like accounting or proofreading you may suggest someone always reviews your work. If you are feeling exhausted or juggling therapy sessions, you may want to turn down an extra project and let your boss know you are open to new assignments – just not right now. It’s okay to ask for some grace as long as you have a plan for remaining accountable at work.
And if you are feeling helpless or suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Dealing with stress during COVID
Stress is heightened for so many caregivers right now. Managing that stress is like losing weight – we all know what we are supposed to do, the challenge is how to do it. We know to help cope we should:
- Eat well
- Get sleep
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Reach out to friends and family.
And since sometimes those basic suggestions can feel so challenging when we need to heed them most, here’s what else we recommend and hopefully feels easier to implement for working daughters:
- Limit negative news and consume happy media. It is okay to turn off the evening news and avoid reading the newspaper. Sure, part of being an adult is paying attention to what’s happening in our communities – local and global – but right now, we need happy, healthy adults more than we need well-read adults. If the news is bringing you down, ignore it for now. Watch a romcom or a sitcom. Make an upbeat playlist on Spotify and infuse your home with good sounds and good vibes
- Walk. Exercise really does help with stress. But that doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym, pound the pavement, or feel the burn. Just go for a walk, or several, during the day. A walk around the block may only add 700 steps to your fitness tracker, but it can add perspective, fresh air and head space to your day.
- Use your hands. Busy work, like knitting, doing a jigsaw puzzle, sketching or doodling, even organizing a junk drawer can be a stress reliever. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from Psychology Today.
Dealing with uncertainty during COVID
This fall and winter, working daughters will again be called upon to make tough choices. Once again, you may be trying to decide if you should move a parent into a senior living facility, or, move them out. You may be trying to decide if you should return to the office where you can advance your career or work remotely and reduce risk of contracting, and transmitting, COVID. You will be thinking through the risks and rewards of isolating and socializing. Even seemingly trivial, daily decisions may feel fraught – go to the grocery store or pay a delivery fee, for example. And you will doubt yourself along the way.
But know this: as a caregiver you possess one of the best tools for decision making: a strong internal compass. Please know you have a strong sense of what is important. And as Roy Disney, of Walt Disney Co. said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
In addition to trusting your gut, there are other ways to cut down on the fear, uncertainty and doubt of making decisions in the coming months.
1. Ban the word “should.” You simply cannot make good decisions if you base them on what other people think you “should” do. No one else knows all that factors into your decision. No one else knows your values. Nor do they need to.
2. Stop what-iffing. Sometimes we are unable to make decisions because we become paralyzed thinking about all of the possible consequences of our choices. What if something happens to my father in the nursing home? What if my mother falls after I move her in with me? We cannot control other people’s fate. We can only act with best intentions.
3 Avoid always and never thinking. Small, simple decisions became enormous and complex when we apply always and never thinking to them. If COVID has taught us anything it is that change is certain. Mask mandates change. Vaccinations and variants make an impact in how we live. Strip your thoughts of the words “always” and “never” because nothing is forever.