Caregiving can be a lonely experience at any time, and with increased social isolation imposed by coronavirus, caregivers may feel even more disconnected from the outside world. What are some things that caregivers, their friends and family can do to help thwart the common enemy of caregiver loneliness?
Get out of the house
It’s important for caregivers to take a break and get out of the house, if nothing more than to breathe in fresh air or experience new scenery.
- Take a walk. Don’t limit yourself to just your neighborhood. There are so many trails throughout Central Indiana that provide a great way to get fresh air and some exercise. Check out TrailLink to find trails near your home.
- Take a drive. Many caregivers have found a short drive to be invigorating. Put on your favorite radio station, or drive in complete silence to help clear your head.
- Read a book. If you can’t leave the house, head outside with a good book, if only for 15 minutes.
- Listen to music. There are many online options for free music, and caregivers can find stress relief by playing their favorite tunes. Check out Spotify or iTunes, which offer playlists based on your favorite artists.
Stay connected with friends, organizations
Caregivers often comment that the one thing they miss most during social isolation is attending religious services. While some faith communities are opening up, many caregivers still don’t feel comfortable going out. Consider these possibilities:
- Zoom in. Many worship services and organizations are online or available through Zoom, while others are having outdoor services where people can stay in their cars. These are excellent options when physical exposure must be limited.
- Continue conversations. Are you part of a golf team, book club or other group you miss? One gentleman I know is a longtime member of “ROMEO” (Retired Old Men Eating Out), and they used to have a weekly lunch together. Now they text and talk on the phone. Regardless of how it’s done, do your best to stay connected with friends, even if it means learning something new—like how to use an online program such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Limit screen time
- Limit news consumption. A steady diet of negative news can have an adverse effect on mental health as well as the mental health of one’s care recipient. Just because we can see news 24 hours a day doesn’t mean it’s good for us.
- Turn the television off. For many people, the TV can help break the silence or feel like a distraction, but too much of it can make people more feel more anxious or depressed without even realizing it. Give yourself a break and soak in some silence. Or, if you need some type of noise, play music. (If you break out into a little song or dance, that’s even better!)
Make your needs known
Caregivers often don’t ask for help because they don’t want to burden anyone. The reality is, many people want to help; they just don’t know how.
- Build a circle of family members, friends and neighbors you can call on for help. Many hands make light work, as the saying goes—and now it’s as easy as getting those hands to sign up on a FREE app to organize and schedule the help they intend to give you. Family and friends will love the convenience of using CareZone, CaringBridge, or LotsaHelpingHands to sign up—and signing up prevents duplication of efforts.
- Say “Yes!” when someone asks, “Do you need anything?” Let them know what you need, even if it’s as simple as picking up a roll of stamps at the post office or stopping by the grocery.
- Remember that “no” doesn’t mean “never.” If you ask someone to help and they can’t help right now, don’t be afraid to ask again.
For everyone else: Tips to help a caregiver you know
A friend once told me that one of the best surprise gifts she ever received was when she looked out her window and saw a neighbor weeding her garden. Simple, quiet gestures can go such a long way to encourage a caregiver. Consider these, as well:
- Ask about a specific task. Caregivers often are in survival mode. If you ask, “Do you need anything?” they may not be able to think of a need that instant. However, you could say things like:
- I’m going to the grocery. What can I get for you?
- I’m making a casserole this weekend. May I make one for you and drop it off? (Be sure to use disposable containers so there isn’t the extra burden of washing and returning anything.)
- Offer to take the loved one out—or sit with him/her to give the caregiver a break.
- Acts of kindness. Look for simple things you might be able to do that don’t require permission, e.g. bringing flowers or produce from your garden, weeding, trimming shrubs or fixing a fence. Brighten someone’s day!
Caregivers across Central Indiana can receive support by contacting CareAware at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Kunk, R.N., coaches family caregivers of aged and disabled Hoosiers for CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions. Kate holds degrees in nursing and sociology. Before joining CICOA, her skills in advocacy have taken her to homeless shelters in Manhattan and Virginia and a psychiatric clinic in Tennessee. She also worked in the publishing industry for more than three decades, during which time she developed educational materials for McGraw-Hill and Pearson in the New York metropolitan area. Reducing the incidence of preventable illness and facilitating improved quality of life for people of all ages are two of Kate’s lifelong passions.