Mental Health & Covid-19

May 27, 2020

As times change and COVID - 19 continues, caregivers are being faced with even more difficult decisions when it comes to caring for their aging parents. Those who thought the demands were hard pre-COVID, are now in an even more stressful situation; how to care for my parents when I might be the one who hurts them?

Many of you have seen my comparisons between caring for my 2 year old and how my clients tell me things are going with their senior loved ones. The questions, the demands and responsibilities and the non-stop worry and stress. It’s enough to send anyone into a mental health crisis.

For parents, the ongoing responsibility, day in and day out, 24 hours a day of caring for their children is taking a toll on not only their sanity but on their productivity as many are trying to balance working from home during this time. As I write this, my daughter is playing the game of smash mommy’s keyboard, and run away.

Caregivers taking care of their aging loved ones, now face more difficult decisions; how to care for my parents when I need to social distance; how to have enough care come into the home from outside caregivers when there is a shortage and I am not entirely confident in their policies and procedures surrounding COVID; when and how long do I wait to move my loved one into a retirement home.

At the beginning of this pandemic, all of our clients who were living at home chose to put their retirement home search, and move, on hold. Opting instead to stay home and “wait out” COVID. Almost 3 months later, we are in what seems to be an everlasting when scenario, and the conversations are slowly changing to what now?

Many families thought they could “get through this” much like I did with my two year old. But as days turn into weeks the toll it is taking on everyone's mental health is beginning to compound.

In the first few weeks families and seniors were very happy with the decision to stay in their home as it meant being able to see each other easier without outside procedures affecting them. Currently, when a senior moves to a retirement home there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine in effect to limit the possibilities of infection with incoming residents. Additionally, excluding specific situations, there are no visitors allowed in the buildings at this time.

However, now multiple months later, the stress of taking care of themselves and their family as well as senior loved ones, and the added pressure of working from home has become a ticking time bomb for all caregivers. Sure, they are continuing to do the same things such as groceries, meal planning and prep, care etc, but now they are doing it with full knowledge that every time they come into contact with their loved one, they may be passing along the virus, which is a stressor no one can see.

The seniors who were beginning their retirement home search 3 months ago are now continually putting themselves at risk by staying in their own home for even longer, and for an undetermined amount of time, because of the unknown.

Not knowing if it is safe to move to a retirement home, not knowing when they will see their family in person again, not wanting to be in isolation for 14 days and then the weight that all of us carry of not knowing when we will be out of this COVID situation, is enough to send anyone into a panic attack or into a depression.

What can you do in this time? You can make a plan. You cannot carry on this way indefinitely and waiting for some “clearing” to then make a plan will only put you behind even more.

Brain on a stack of medical masks
What is the plan?

Here are my thoughts for seniors who are in need of a move, and their families:

Assess the situation for physical safety

Figure out if the home is safe for you/them and what you need to do right now to make it safe. Many people have been in a hold pattern as they were going to move so the grab bars, pendant systems etc were never put into place. Do it now.

Assess for mental safety

Many of our clients who have all forms of dementia are all of the sudden getting worse after being in isolation. Connect with the Dementia Society or speak to a doctor. Please don’t ignore this as things left alone don’t usually get better

“What if” COVID-19 wasn’t a “thing” at the moment? What would have been the plan?

If you/they were looking to make a move that is now on hold, that doesn’t mean that you/they are safer now. The risk that existed before COVID and the reason you were looking is still very much alive and well. Remember why you were going to move and start piecing together a plan. Whether with Tea & Toast or on your own, there are ways to research and gather information in this time to make a better decision in the future.

If you or your loved one is in need of a retirement living advocate, please reach out to us. Tea & Toast has worked with families in many situations over the last 6 years and we continue to work to match retirement homes to our clients and their needs. Many people are still making a move to retirement living during this time period and with the right advocacy, support and due diligence it is still a safe move.

For further information, pick up a copy of Breadcrumbs, Piecing Together The Retirement Living Industry. Available in Kindle and print.

Stay well,
Amy Friesen, Founder and CEO of Tea & Toast613-697-1319

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