Social Distancing with COVID-19: Caring and Thriving in a Time of Uncertainty

Ice Cream Sundays at Skylark!

Are you going crazy yet?   Are you sick of Zoom? Or do you question if you ever have to go back to the office again now that you’ve figured out how to do everything remotely.  Has your home gotten really small?  Desperate for a handshake or a hug from close friends and family?  The coronavirus has upended everything.

If you’re like me, the answer is “all of the above.”  We check in with parents often.  When we visit, they hang out on the front porch with my wife, kids, and me on the driveway.  We’ve become elementary school teachers.  My wife is teaching high school kids all day on Zoom.  I’m running a business. But, there are also daily bike rides for “PE” and lots of cuddling on the couch with movies.  Chaos and family time.  We’ve had wailing and laughing.  We also decided to get a dog.  It started as “let’s get a small, house broken girl dog.”  At the pound, we found a two-month-old boy black lab / pit bull mix.  It’s crazy.  It’s our life now.

What’s your life like?  Is there chaos?  Is there wonderful family time?  A yearning for more contact?  Some frustration with the challenges that accompany a dementia diagnosis?  Or needing some more ideas for the day than just Netflix. If you’re caring for a loved one, it’s bound to be “all of the above.”   If so, you’re not alone. Mary Caldwell, Helpline and Early Stage Program Manager for the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/georgia), reports being busier than ever developing virtual programming and training to staff and volunteers in response to the needs of families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

In this time of the coronavirus, we want to present some positive ideas during this time:

  1. Relationships: This is the core of the matter. There will be a lot of together time.  Or a lot of worrying about a loved one from a far.  Either way, the requirements needed for caregiving can be stressful. If experiencing social distancing up close, figure out ways to keep the relationship from getting too stressful.  Perhaps connect with other friends and family using Facetime, Zoom, or even an old fashion phone call.
  2. Structure: Mary Caldwell recommends having a plan for each day, creating a schedule, and maintaining existing routines. It will be easy to sleep late and watch a lot of TV and hang out on the couch all day.  Develop the structure that will help everyone stay active and engaged.  Try to maintain sleep during the night and not letting the night become day.
  3. Activities: Try out some good activities.  Ask your loved one what they enjoy.  Try something new.  Work them into the schedule, but with flexibility.  If something doesn’t work, no big deal.  Try something else.  Find time for some exercise with a good walk or some dancing.  Try cognitive challenge games.  Bring art into the home.  You might not be a great artist, but there are resources for you like adult coloring books or craft projects.  
  4. Take care of yourself: Find time for renewal.  It’s hard when everyone is in the same house.  But try to find some quiet time or space for a movie or a special treat.  Build it into the schedule.  When you’re ready to have someone come into the home, give us a call about home care.  This is an affordable way to create time for yourself. 

We have at least another month until life starts to get back to normal.  There will be time for laughter and tears. 

Let’s stay in touch.  We’re going to send out some more ideas each week for you to try in the home.  We’ll try to reach you by phone, and we’ll look at ways to develop some virtual programming. 

Here are some great resources to try:

Alzheimer’s Association (https://www.alz.org/help-support):  Full of information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.  They have excellent caregiver support services and resources along with ideas for daily care. 

TimeSlips (www.timeslips.org): This site has some ideas for engagement with your loved one using the arts, music, and storytelling.  They are sending out their newsletter weekly with some great engaging ideas while we are socially distancing because of Covid-19.

Here are some ideas from Kathleen Mannelley, our program coordinator at our Buckhead center.

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