The coronavirus has dramatically reshaped human society in under six months. It emanated from unknown sources in China’s Wuhan province and spread across the world, forcing lockdowns, quarantines, and other public health measures as doctors struggled to isolate and understand this new disease.
With over 13,400,000 cases in the world as I write this and 580,000 deaths, it is virtually impossible to find a community that has not been touched by the coronavirus. In addition to the cost on patients, it can be incredibly difficult for friends, family, and other caretakers. Supporting someone who is contending with a new disease, one with side effects and mortality levels that are not well-understood, can be a great burden.
Coping as a Parent
The City spoke with Catherine Abear, whose husband Ray died from the disease. “I spoke with a grief counselor, because you want to make sure you say the right thing to your children, like you don’t want to say, um, Daddy was sick and now he’s never gonna come home again. You don’t really know how things like this will affect them in the years to come.”
As a Caregiver to the Elderly
Stress can come from numerous sources in a caregiver’s life, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact the economic and social lives of people around the world. Caregiver support solutions company Torchlight released a study indicating multiple increases in stress among elderly caregivers, including a 13.1% increase in anxiety and depression diagnoses across elder care recipients.
Conflicted About Healthcare Quality
Many people are also finding themselves conflicted about the quality of care that COVID-19 patients are receiving. Kent Yamada of La Jolla, California, believes that home healthcare workers dealing with his father were responsible for his mother contracting the disease. “When you’re thinking that you’re working with healthcare people, you really do believe that they’re professionals, and they wouldn’t do anything to endanger or take a risk,” Yamada told INews. “But the truth is that they aren’t as serious as you think they are.”
Maintaining a Stable Mental Attitude
With an event as emotionally potent as a global pandemic, it can be challenging to maintain a stable mental attitude. Experts recommend a number of techniques to manage stress and sadness while caring for the sick. These are partially adapted from guidelines published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
First, it’s important to take breaks. Although the situation can seem overwhelming, taking time out to assess not only your ill loved one but also your personal health and stability. Remind yourself that you are only human and you can only do your best. Overextending yourself won’t help them get better faster.
Coping with negative emotions can be one of the biggest challenges of being a caretaker. It’s important not to repress or deny those feelings of anger, frustration, or jealousy. That will only make them stronger. Instead, find ways to express these negative emotions that don’t harm yourself or others. Punch pillows or listen to loud music to exorcise your anger, or ask for help from others to lighten your load. It’s only natural to feel these ways.
Taking care of your overtaxed body is just as important as mental self-care. Make sure to find time during the day to eat regular healthy meals, drink plenty of water, and get light exercise, including stretching.
It’s important to note the difference between sadness, which is a natural reaction to trauma and unpleasant circumstances, and clinical depression and anxiety. The latter is caused by a variety of other factors, including chemical imbalances in the brain. It can certainly be exacerbated by circumstances, so it’s important to set healthy boundaries and make time for self-care. If you suffer from chronic depression or anxiety, see a mental health professional.
As a society, we will eventually make our way through this unexpected pandemic and move on. But that’s cold comfort for the people living first-hand with COVID-19. They are living day-by-day with the specter of the disease hanging over their heads.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love may have COVID-19, Mission Harbor, a treatment center in California, includes information on symptoms on their website, SBTreatment.com. Different state health authorities have their own requirements on who can obtain a test, but if the symptoms line up, speak to a doctor immediately.