Navigating the Waters of Social Isolation

Social isolation is often a danger to caregivers’ health. Now it’s a problem for the whole world. Yet for caregivers, the issues can be particularly rough due to the added stress of caring for an ailing loved one.

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Social isolation is often a danger to caregivers’ health. Now it’s a problem for the whole world. Yet for caregivers, the issues can be particularly rough due to the added stress of caring for an ailing loved one.

Across much of the world, social distancing has meant that caregivers can no longer visit relatives in nursing homes. Caregiver support groups have been canceled or moved online. Friends and family are prohibited from stopping by for uplifting visits. And worry may be much more intense because of how problematic the coronavirus can be for the elderly or people with underlying health conditions. 

But if you’re creative, you can find a way through. For example, one family visited their granddad’s nursing home by staying outside and waving at him from the grounds. On St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, the teachers created a parade route and drove by the homes of every student in a long line, waving at them as they passed. In Italy, people sang together outside their windows, creating an impromptu chorus of neighbors.

So what can you do to keep your spirits up in this new normal? Here are some ideas:

1) Create a New Routine 
Each night, create a to-do list for the next day. Then, in the morning, make your bed, get dressed (no pajamas all day!), have breakfast, and tackle an item on your to-do list. Schedule time for exercise, meals, and home projects. Each person’s day will look different, but it’s vital to find a new normal routine that works for you.

2) Treat Yourself 
Think of little ways to add spontaneous fun to your day. For example, buy something new online. Personally, I ordered a new pair of slippers and some herbs to enliven my cooking. It’s exciting to know they’ll be coming in the mail. Also, every day, I write down a movie time on the calendar, so I have a fun activity scheduled to anticipate and enjoy.

3) Stay Connected 
Even though you’re housebound, make sure to retain connections with the outside word. Perhaps surprise a friend or family member with an online gift or an e-card. Plan phone calls and Zoom/Skype/Facetime events. A friend of mine schedules a weekly Zoom call with her whole family, and it’s a precious hour to check in with each other and strengthen connections. It’s also a nice event to look forward to during the week

4) Protect Your Mental Health 
One of the easiest ways to do this is by limiting your exposure to the news. Don’t check the latest numbers until you’ve gotten out of bed, gotten dressed and eaten breakfast. If you can hold out longer, do. Maybe schedule one chunk of time each day to read or watch the most recent updates, and then set aside a bit of time afterwards to worry—perhaps 15 minutes. Once, that 15 minutes is over, move on to something else and let the matter go until the next day. Sometimes scheduling in “worry time” can let you release the worries more easily. When a worry pops up later in the day, you can just remind yourself that you will fret about it during the next day’s “worry time.”

Also, as you go about your day, remember to keep your medical information handy on an emergency information card that stays with you at all times. Include your insurance company (phone, group, and ID numbers), medications, doctor’s name and number, and the phone numbers and email addresses of important contacts (children, spouse, friends, etc.). Remember to update it when the information changes. This card could save your life by providing vital information a doctor might need in an emergency. It may sound harsh, but Covid-19 can be a reality check to be prepared for whatever life brings your way.
—Kathi Koll

Article by Kathi Koll © 2020

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