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April 30, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is altering life as we know it all over the world, and the situation poses unique challenges for caregivers. Being a caregiver for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or other related dementias is already an extremely taxing situation. Each person may react differently to certain stressors but it is important to practice self-care during such challenging times.
 
Baycrest’s Dr. Adriana Shnall and the Baycrest@Home team have developed a list of tips to support caregivers and help them manage stress and anxiety related to the current COVID-19 situation.
 
Limit News/Media Exposure
 
The media landscape around the COVID-19 pandemic is very crowded with so many different outlets reporting on changing situations, and it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the varying opinions. Find a reputable source, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada or other government resources and spend only a few minutes a day updating yourself about COVID-19. Check helpful resources online from organizations you may already be working with for support, that way you can ensure that the information shared has been curated for a specific audience. For the latest expertise and resources from Baycrest, please visit www.baycrest.org
 
Exercise
 
One of the best ways to clear a cluttered mind is to exercise. While access to public spaces is limited for COVID-19 precautions, it is important to step outside for fresh air and exercise as much as possible. Go out for a walk, while maintaining a two-metre distance from others, and focus on your breathing. You can also adjust workouts to become home-based routines. There are many local fitness studios and gyms offering free or heavily discounted classes over Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
 
If your loved one is able to, try to incorporate some physical activity into their routine, whether through exercises in the home, brief walks outdoors, or physical movement in any private outdoor space you have access to. Chair yoga, Tai Chi and walking are great forms of exercise for older individuals who may have mobility issues. There are also many online exercise programs for older adults, such as Baycrest’s NBS Sharing Dance program. These classes are designed to be adaptable and meet physical and cognitive challenges.
 
Call Friends and Family for Support
 
Isolation may increasingly become a challenge for your loved one during this time, and scheduling daily virtual calls with their extended circle can help alleviate some of these issues. Lean on your network for support and set up a rotation of calls or video chats. Seeing the faces of family and friends and having conversations with them can provide comfort and support during this challenging time.
 
Baycrest also offers friendly phone visits and e-pals through our Seniors Support program. Visit this link for more information.
 
Try Something New
 
Many community-based programs or classes may be temporarily on hold. It is a great time to try a new activity or hobby that peaks your interest, such as reading, journaling, meditating, cooking and baking, knitting, watching movies, crossword puzzles, crafting or making art, etc. You can also take advantage of a number of learning opportunities now available online:


For your loved one, a time of change in their routine may cause confusion and increase feelings of boredom and loneliness. Consider accessing online resources to supplement their schedule during this time. Examples may include:

  • Baycrest’s ArtontheBrain, a web-based therapeutic intervention that uses visual art as a vehicle for mental stimulation and socialization. Take advantage of their free trial until June 30, visit artonthebrain.org to get started. 
  • Stream concerts or art museum walks online through Google Arts & Culture. They have partnered with more than 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy to provide a virtual option for people staying at home.
  • “Live” music performances are also available via the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Wigmore Hall in the UK and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.


Maintain a Daily Routine
 
Maintaining a daily routine is recommended during this time of uncertainty.

  • Ensuring you are sleeping during night time hours and geting up at the same time each day supports proper sleep hygiene and can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Get out of bed and get dressed as though you are leaving the house, feelings of depression can be amplified if we stay in our pajamas all day.
  • Eat well. Good nutrition and a balanced diet can have a positive impact on our mood.

Connect with Spiritual Care

“Spirituality is our quest for meaning, purpose and fulfilment, often in the context of something greater than ourselves,” says Rabbi Dr. Geoffrey Haber, director of Spiritual Care at Baycrest.

During this time of increased stress, support through spiritual care can provide comfort and alleviate concerns about the global situation pertaining to COVID-19. Consider contacting a chaplain for a phone or video visit for your loved one, or yourself as a caregiver.

Expand Your Circle of Care

During this time of uncertainty, it is important to create a preparedness plan in case you are unable to care for your loved one during illness. Look to expand your circle of care for your loved one and ensure a scheduled plan is in place, with documented notes regarding care, medication instructions, care provider contact information and anything else that would be important for another caregiver to know about your loved one. 

Looking after yourself as a caregiver is the most important thing you can do to support your loved one during this time. Access Baycrest support for caregivers here.
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