Given the current situation we are experiencing, the importance of mental health is critical. This pandemic has been unnerving, stressful, sad, frightening, frustrating and so much more for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
The uncertainty of the future – be it one’s health, employment status, residence or more – has taken a toll on mental health. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found that nearly half (45%) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus.
When you add the nuances involved in caring for an older adult suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other health ailments, the situation can be even more stressful. It is of upmost importance that caregivers ensure they are caring for themselves.
Professional Help is Available
Despite the need to shelter in place, practice social distancing and minimize contact with others, there are doctors and therapists available to provide their services and expertise if you need them. Take advantage of this. As we so often hear on airlines, it’s important to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others in the event of an emergency.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and more, reach out to a professional for help. Many mental health services – including telehealth – may be covered by your health insurance plan, so it’s important to look into it and take advantage of it. This goes for Medicare, Medicaid, ACA and more, so reach out to your insurance company or doctor’s office to find out how you can receive help.
Consider Assisted Living Facilities
If you are among the 20 percent of adults throughout the United States who are a caregiver to an older family member, the notion of moving that individual into an assisted living facility during a pandemic may seem frightening. With this virus having an especially more serious impact on individuals over 60 and/or with other health concerns, that can add to the stress.
But if utilizing the care and expertise of the professionals in such a setting can help provide you with the mental relief you may need, while still providing care for your loved one, it is important to consider. Remember that senior communities across the country are enacting strict social distancing rules, deep cleaning procedures and other safety protocols to make their facilities as safe as possible for both residents and staff members.
An assisted living facility may be especially critical to consider if you care for someone who needs regular assistance with daily living activities, such as eating, bathing and dressing, and/or a senior who has a medical condition that may require urgent and ongoing care. On a more positive note, being in an assisted living facility can provide new friends and acquaintances, the opportunity to try new hobbies and have a change of scene. Knowing your loved one is in good hands can provide much needed mental relief.
Be Kind to Yourself
It is vital to ensure you have access to any professional assistance needed for your mental health and wellbeing as a caregiver. The role of a caregiver leaves many feeling unprepared, worried, isolated, helpless and lonely. In fact, a recent national survey found that 42 percent of family caregivers reported being lonely compared with non-caregivers.
But it’s important to acknowledge that you are not alone, that it is okay to take a break for yourself and it is even more acceptable to ask for help. Do not let this pandemic make you think any less of yourself and the love and care you provide.