Strategies for Caregivers during Isolation
by Pam Kul-Berg, Dementia Care Specialist, ADRC of Southwest WI
To combat the isolation, frustration and restlessness that comes with being “cooped up” with the corona quarantine, consider the following advice:
Keep or develop a ROUTINE to help the time pass — with an time slot allotted for each activity, including meals, drinking (a lot of water), exercise (even lifting water bottles or marching while sitting on couch), making a call (to hear a familiar voice), watching a favorite program or other activities listed below. Routine can give us a sense of control and purpose.
It is normal to feel anxious, especially in these uncertain times, with so much unknown and constant news talking about a “crisis”. Try de-stressing by:
- Start the day reading something positive or inspirational.
- Watching funny or “light” movies instead of the news (I am sure you will hear about news if anything new develops).
- Give yourself permission to limit “screen time” if you find Facebook posts or other social media too focused on “the crisis”.
- Make phone calls to folks you haven’t heard from in a while (especially those that “lift your spirits”, like pastors or past “friends in spirit”).
- Pray or commune (like watching a show) together —over the phone.
- Talk, think or write about your “3 blessings a day” – focus on what remains rather than what lost.
- Journal in a diary. Sometimes writing things down, even if no one ever looks at it again, can provide some release of frustration or give a sense of purpose.
- Try a simple board or card game you haven’t played in a while. It’s ok if you alter the rules for someone with a memory problem, or not worry too much about mistakes, or who is winning. Sometimes a new game can be invented!
- Make sure to schedule a specific time –and create a space– for a favorite hobby that brings you pleasure, and that can be done on an on and-off basis for 20 minutes at a time– like simple jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, dot-to-dot, etc. You may have to simplify the task (like sanding with paper in the kitchen instead of going to the back work shed).
- Or… try something new! (Aging brains, that don’t have dementia, always benefit from trying a new skill). Try a new recipe, new craft, or new type of puzzle.
- Adult Coloring book pages can be “meditative”, or give a sense of control, as you fill in the finite details with color. You don’t even have to save the picture if you don’t want to —letting it go like a sand mandala.
- Try planting seeds in a cup to see what grows.
- Play music (and simple dancing) as a part of every day to lift your mood (Just make sure to play it at a time when your loved one with dementia doesn’t show signs of being overwhelmed or overstimulated, like pacing.)
- Get outside– even if it means just standing on back porch.
- Alternatively, sit in the sun by the window. Light helps lift moods.
- STRETCH—Don’t forget to look up or extend your arms to “pull” stress out of the body. Of course, know thyself and what your (i.e. balance) limitations are.
- WALK—even if it is up and down stairs—or in a circle around the living room, if falls are a risk. Singing-while-walking lifts the spirits and energy. Do not worry about being expressive or silly in your own home.
- It is still ok to wave to neighbors or passersby.
- Not just by reflex, but by sitting down to focus on the present, simple act of releasing your breath. And focus on something other than your worried or frustrated thoughts. This is what is meant by “meditation”– nothing fancy. Just simple focus on relaxing your shoulders, and other body parts while exhaling and thinking only about breathing. It is ok if your mind wanders as you come back to the present breath.
- If you are really upset, try a cool washcloth placed on the sides of your neck (to lower blood pressure in your carotid arteries).
- It’s okay to nap. Just not too much (more than 20 minutes or so.)
- It’s ok to say YES to those that want to drop off things for you—it helps them to feel better (and that they are doing something) as well as appreciate that they thought of you. (You can always “re-gift” later.)
- Remember to “keep it relative”. Most people will not get sick enough to be hospitalized.
- Remember: “This too shall pass”.
REMINDERS for those with Dementia:
- For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person living with dementia shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice.
- The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 Helpline for questions or problem solving help: 1-800-272-3900. Speak confidentially with master’s-level care consultants for decision-making support, crisis assistance and education on issues families face every day.
- Resources such as: https://www.wellmedcharitablefoundation.org/caregiver-support/ has an online support groups as well as monthly newsletter.
As always, you can call your local ADRC at 1-800 514-0066 to hear about more resources or to talk to your local Dementia Care Specialist. Take care and stay healthy!