Taking care of a sick, elderly or disabled family member can be stressful at the best of times. In the midst of a global pandemic, it can literally leave us feeling like our whole world has been turned upside down.
Government restrictions have limited some of the support services usually available to carers and many carers have stopped accessing in-home services for fear of bringing COVID-19 into their homes.
Add to this the simple fact that many carers are themselves at higher risk of contracting the virus due to age or underlying medical conditions, and you have the perfect storm of anxiety, fear and increased workload that can quickly lead to carer burnout.
Here are four things that can help avoid carer burnout:
1. Turn off the news
It’s almost impossible to escape COVID-19 at the moment. We’re not talking about the actual virus, but the overload of information about it. News, current affairs, SMS messages from the government. Even our social media feeds have become choked with information about coronavirus, from conspiracy theories and statistic to the rising death tolls around the world.
While it is important to keep up-to-date and to know how to stay safe during a pandemic, too much information can have the opposite effect, and instead increase our anxiety and stress levels.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but we recommend taking a break from the news and social media, or at the very least, limiting your exposure to once or twice a day. Your mental health will thank you for it.
2. Stay connected
The government has asked all Australians to practice social distancing and stay in their homes as much as possible to help flatten the curve of COVID-19. Unfortunately, isolation is also one of the leading causes of depression and mental health issues, which can become quite exasperated for those who already feel quite alone in the roles as carers.
It’s important to remember that social distancing does not mean disconnecting completely and putting our relationships on hold. In fact, it is probably more important than ever before to maintain contact with others.
You could use ‘old fashioned’ connections like the telephone, or even chatting to a neighbour over the fence. Or you could get creative and use technology to bridge the distance, virtually bringing your loved ones into the room with you.
Stay connected by hosting a virtual dinner party using Zoom, set up a family WhatsApp group-chat, chat to your friends on Facebook Messenger, or even connect with other carers around Australia on the Carer Gateway forum.
3. Get contactless deliveries
When COVID-19 first started spreading across Australia, many carers cancelled their cleaners and home deliveries for fear of other people bringing the virus into their homes. At the time, it made sense, as delivery services struggled to adapt to the new environment. But over the last few weeks, we have seen many services switch to contactless deliveries and implement strict hygiene requirements for their drivers and workers.
Coles and Woolworths may have temporarily canned deliveries for the average household, but people in high risk or vulnerable households can get groceries delivered to the door. But don’t forget smaller, local supermarkets like IGA and Hill Street, who are also doing contactless deliveries.
Australia Post and courier services have enacted contactless deliveries for all parcels and packages.
And while restaurants and cafes remain closed to the general public, many have transitioned to home deliveries and take away services, either through third party agencies like Uber Eats, or direct from their websites.
4. Take care of yourself
Let’s face it; as carers, we already have a tendency to put other people before ourselves. However, with the increase in workloads, stress and anxiety that we spoke about earlier as a result of all the COVID-19 restrictions, it is more important than ever for carers to take care of themselves. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t take care of your loved one if you, yourself, end up sick.
Taking care of yourself means remembering to eat healthy meals, get regular exercise and fresh air, get plenty of sleep and keep an eye on your own mental and physical well-being.
A number of doctors, pharmacies and counselling services are jumping onboard the digital revolution, offering virtual appointments online to save patients having to travel unnecessarily.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, you can talk to a Carer Gateway counsellor on 1800 422 737. If you need are in a crisis, and need immediate help, call Lifeline on 131 114, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
If you would like to find out what support services are still available, give us a call at Care2Serve on 03 6144 3729.