A caregiver’s guide for handling the lockdown

A Look Back

The past month has revealed what a “new normal” could look like. We had to adapt, and that too, at a very fast pace. Working from home, online education and grocery deliveries seem to have become the only way to survive the COVID-19 crisis. However, this didn’t stop the death toll from rising to a staggering 207,000 (as at -date of publish) worldwide while Sri Lanka witnessed seven deaths within a span of one month from the date of publication.

How well is the world coping?

Most of the European nations are leading in the number of total cases with over 3 million people infected by COVID-19 worldwide. Businesses are starting to collapse. Employees are losing jobs and accepting pay cuts which causes concern over job security. Sri Lanka could potentially be drastically affected across various sectors. Meanwhile, numbers in domestic violence cases have risen during lockdown in Sri Lanka and Worldwide which is a reflection of the alarming number of calls to emergency helplines. Staying indoors for months may also cause a negative impact on mental health.

As a parent or caregiver, what does this mean to you?

When you have children and the elderly to take care of, this might be one of the most challenging periods of your life. We understand the difficulty you may be facing, but always keep in mind that you’re doing the best you can. Here are a few tips to help you cope better with the situation:

If you’re a mother of a toddler or infant

It can be quite stressful to keep your little ones entertained, especially when you need to handle a full time job from home and do the household chores because getting domestic help is no longer possible. On top of this, you can’t send them to day care centers or to even play outdoors!  Your anxiety is valid. Millions like you are facing the same turmoil but the only way to keep your family safe is by paying attention to guidelines imposed by the Health Authorities. On the positive side, if you get a little creative you could keep your kids happy while maintaining an optimistic attitude.

  • Kids love to bake. Try out simple recipes with them. Let them have fun while they also learn a new skill.
  • Entertain them with child-friendly content from YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and many other platforms just which are geared to support parents like you.
  • Kids can create crafts and handmade gifts for friends, grandparents and teachers. The adults are sure to appreciate the gesture even if they can’t receive the gifts right away. You could arrange a video call between them, as appreciation can boost a child’s confidence.
  • Storytelling, indoor games and family board game tournaments are excellent activities. You could also get them involved while you exercise. If you have a printer available, print out free colouring and activity sheets as it will reduce their screen time. Although this can be challenging right now, trying doesn’t hurt as it could result in long term implications.

If you’re a parent of a child with a disability

Just like embracing new lifestyle changes are challenging, your child will take time to adjust to a new routine. Understanding is key. Have an honest conversation with them to help them realise what’s going on in the world. They need your love and empathy now more than ever before.

  • Engage them in online learning activities. It’s wise to schedule lessons with their current teachers using digital methods. This will reduce their anxiety of meeting strangers and help maintain a semblance of normalcy in their daily routine.
  • Look up virtual dancing classes designed for children with learning disabilities and physical impairment. This will allow them to enjoy their time indoors with family.
  • Based on the unique abilities of your child, involve them in household activities such as helping you to cook, clean, do the laundry and gardening. Use this opportunity to teach them life skills where possible.
  • Increase bonding activities with other family members. For example, if your child usually spends more time with their mother, let them engage in a new activity with their father in the garage or learn to play a musical instrument with a sibling. This will bring some balance and provide some much needed relief to the primary caregiver.
  • Keep their sleeping schedule as normal as possible while also putting up an activity plan for the day/week. Communicate this with them in advance.
  • Respect their emotions. Talk to them. Use praise and positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. Do not take your stress out on them.

This can be an emotionally taxing period for yourself and your family. Forgive yourself for falling short at times. Focus on what’s under your control. If you’re a parent of a child with Downs syndrome, physical or mental impairment, reach out to other parents via online forums and ask for methods that’s helping them cope. Alternatively, you can also talk to your child’s doctor or therapist for advice if you feel that you or your child are overwhelmed.  

If you’re a caregiver of an elder with Alzheimer’s disease

Routine is the main safety net they will need for reassurance. Since most of their regular activities may be not possible, such as going out for a walk or meeting old family and friends. try to draw up a new schedule involving tasks they specifically enjoy. Activities such as knitting, jigsaw puzzles, Watching TV, or reading are simple and manageable. Along with this, it’s important to allow them talk with those they are fond of. Video calls with loved ones  will give them something to look forward to even though they do not actively participate in them.

Actively engage in conversation to the best of your ability. Let them reminisce their memories even if you’ve heard it many times before. Having someone who would enjoy their memories just as much would make them happy beyond measure.  

It’s vital to keep food, medicine and other emergency aids in stock. Do not skip their regular medicines. If you’re closer to running out of medicine, locate a reputed online pharmacy and order the medicine in advance, and they will be delivered to your doorstep. A reputed online pharmacy will be well-equipped to handle your order with professionalism and due care.

Always keep in mind that leaving your home to pick up essentials or medicine makes you and your family vulnerable to COVID-19, especially your children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

If you’re a caregiver of a bedridden or an elder with disabilities

This can be overwhelming. Looking after the vulnerable and the elderly is a service many are not capable of handling, especially during the challenging times of a lockdown. It’s essential to make sure they are  not exposed to outsiders while also helping them to maintain their safety and hygiene. Wash their hands with soap and sanitise any surfaces they might be exposed to. Make your hospital visits only after checking in advance if the consultant is available on a particular date. Use online channeling or call the hospital to find out. 

If you’re a caregiver of an elderly with diabetes or cardiovascular diseases

Apart from ensuring a healthy diet, hygiene and fitness needs, assessing their blood sugar levels regularly will help you understand if they are in good health or require any assistance with their medicine. Keeping a record of these figures and their food intake will also allow your doctor to prescribe the right doses of medicine at your next consultation. Make note of a website or contact details of a reputed online pharmacy who provide a quick and reliable delivery service to your area. You can purchase tools such as blood pressure monitors and blood sugar monitors using this platform which would make assessments quick and easy. Always check if these pharmacies are NMRA (Ministry of Health) approved.

How to take care of yourself?

You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself. All these responsibilities can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re a normal human being thrown into uncertain times and you’re dealing with it as best as you can. Plan a few fun activities and self-care routines to help you to de-stress. Here are a few suggestions :

  • Exercise
  • Meditation or yoga
  • Indulge in a hobby
  • Reach out to friend
  • Breathing exercises 

If you’re a mother, you might have a tendency to neglect your meals if your child doesn’t eat on time. Remind yourself that you don’t have to do this. As a caregiver you need your own energy and stamina to take care of your family. Having a wholesome meal will give you strength to face tough parts of the day and enjoy your blessings just as much. Begin your morning by being thankful for what you have and visualise having a great day ahead. Remind yourself this is only a phase and this too shall pass. Before you go to bed, meditate or read. You could even journal your thoughts if you feel like it. This will help you process your emotions in a healthy manner.

Do you have a story to share? Write to me on [email protected]

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