Physical distancing has shaken up our caregiving routines. Our approaches, roles, and goals have shifted as we have responded to the new challenges of taking care of our loved ones – parents, siblings, children – during the coronavirus pandemic.
We have dealt with these changes with incredible resilience. As we continue to weather disruptions and uncertainty, let us consider refreshed guidelines on caregiving and life-work integration.
Set realistic goals.
Evaluate your caregiving goals while considering recent changes in your life. Think about the social, emotional, and physical needs of your loved one and yourself. Assess what you can do, along with family, friends, and community resources, to ensure quality care.
Reviewing diagnoses can give you a renewed perspective on care needs. With updated guidance from local, state, and national agencies, you may find more insight into caring for your loved one in a time of change. You can also reevaluate service offerings, such as respite and support groups.
Accept the emotions of your loved ones, and yourself.
Caregiving has always been stressful. Caregiving with physical distancing may have dredged up old emotions, or thrown you for a loop with unexpected feelings. Keep conversations going with the people you care for, continue to seek support groups (in person and virtually), and get professional help when you need it.
Ask for help, accept help, and trust others.
Previous ideas of “ideal” caregiving may have told you that you had to do it all yourself. Stress and guilt became constant companions on the road to burnout. But there is strength in reaching out to family, friends, and community to ensure the best care possible. Be willing to accept help with shopping, meals, cleaning, respite, etc., if not hands-on care.
Renew a commitment to self-care.
With less access to support during physical distancing, some caregivers have had even less opportunity for self-care – whether their loved ones are remote or under the same roof. You have been creative and quick to act, and you have dealt with profound stress. Short- and long-term approaches to self-care include respite, meditation, journaling, movement, and, of course, pausing to breathe.
Keep conversations going with your loved one, your family, and your workplace.
Stay prepared for what lies ahead by keeping discussions open, and continue to use creative resources for connecting to check in with your loved one while at work. Discuss the feasibility of medical alert systems, and ensure that emergency documents will be accessible while you are in the office. Also, talk about your schedule with your director and team. See if you can explore flex time options that help you achieve your caregiving and work goals.
Life and work integration is an exercise of endurance and an ongoing process. The ups and downs of this pandemic marathon may bring questions, cautionary steps, and complicated emotions. Caregiving requires constant awareness and communication.
You don't have to go this alone. Reach out for help in getting the answers, planning those steps, and staying positive and balanced.