Resources for Family Caregivers During the Covid-19 Crisis

March 27, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting all of our daily lives. Collectively, we’re all adjusting to new routines—whether that’s working from home or practicing social distancing as much as possible.

People caring for an older family member—especially if those individuals have Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illness— face unique challenges in keeping their loved one safe at home. How do you encourage hand-washing when your family member is sensitive to water? What wellness activities can you do with your relative in your home?

We’re sharing recommendations and resources to help family caregivers through this public health crisis.

Please note that this is an expanding list! Share other resources and ideas in the comments. 

GENERAL RESOURCES RELATED TO COVID-19

    1. The Administration for Community Living has a resource page that outlines what older adults and people with disabilities need to know related to the coronavirus. The page shares information on making a household plan, everyday actions to prevent illness, and many links to federal and state guidance related to scams, Medicare, and CDC tools. Visit it here.
    2. Another great collection of resources comes from The John A. Hartford Foundation. They’ve curated important news and articles to keep you informed, as well as resources from AARP, the CDC, National Foundation for Infectious Disease, and others. Visit it here.

HELPLINES

    1. Iona’s Helpline continues to operate our normal hours during this crisis, M-F from 9am-5pm ET. If you have any aging- or caregiving-related questions, please call 202-895-9448 or email info@iona.org and connect with a social worker.
    2. Neighbors across the District have launched different DC Mutual Aid efforts to support each other.
      Ward Hotlines:
      Ward 1: (202) 681-9183
      Ward 2: (202) 688-5812
      Ward 3: (202) 556-1315
      Ward 4: (202) 681-3098
      Ward 5: (202) 643-7030
      Ward 6: (202) 683-9962
      Wards 7 & 8: (202) 630-0336
    3. The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) has tips for how you can plan now and manage the rapidly changing situation to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible. Read their tips here. CAN also has a caregiver Help Desk, which can provide information to help caregivers navigate complex challenges. It’s available by phone at (855) 227-3640 , M-F from 7am to 6pm CT.
    4. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a National Toll-Free Helpline at (866) 232-8484. It’s staffed by licensed social workers who are specifically trained in dementia care, and is available via Skype (Alzheimers_Foundation), live chat, and e-mail. It’s open M-F from 9am-9pm ET, and 9am-3 pm ET on Saturday and Sunday.

TIPS FOR CAREGIVING THROUGH COVID-19

  1. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has information and practical tips on how to prevent the spread of illness. For example, to practice the CDC’s hand-washing recommendation, they suggest that you use a soothing tone and model it step-by-step. Some people with dementia are no longer able to sequence (i.e., they can’t anticipate what step is coming next.). Modeling step-by-step could look like saying: “First, let’s wet our hands under the water.” When that’s done, “Then we will use the soap dispenser to squeeze out some soap into your hands.” Then, “Rub your hands together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands…. Lather between your fingers…. Lather under your nails.” Another great suggestion is to use a fragranced soap such as lavender to improve the sensory experience for your person. For more practical tips, visit their site here. 

ACTIVITIES

    1. Iona’s Around Town DC program has partnered with the Department of Aging and Community Living to provide a list of online activities you can enjoy from your home. We’ve also moved a number of our regular programming to a virtual space using the tool Zoom, and are even launching new discussion groups and virtual workshops. Click here for our expanding list of online activities and information on new virtual events. 
    2. Some good activities to have on your tool belt to pass the time include: playing word puzzles and games, looking through picture albums, listening to favorite music albums, watching special movies, and offering your person small tasks to engage in such as folding towels or putting socks together.
    3. National Certification Council for Activity Professionals has created a PDF of 101 activities you can do in your home. Access it here.
    4. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a Youtube series of quick and easy activities that caregivers can do with someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Activities include simple craft projects, chair yoga, and more. Watch the Virtual Community Classes here. 
    5. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is providing families affected by Alzheimer’s disease with information about simple therapeutic activities they can do to keep their loved one engaged and active while at home. Ideas include flower arranging (for tactile stimulation), virtual tours, storytelling, fitness classes, and more. Read the full list here. 

Art and Dance Classes

    1. Dance for PD is committed to supporting the global community and encouraging people living with Parkinson’s to keep dancing during a time when live classes may not be available. To this end, they’re making this full digital class archive available free of charge. Access it here.
    2. Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Williams has launched a new Lunch Doodles program. Learners worldwide can draw, doodle, and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually at the link.
    3. Museum Arts Culture Access Consortium (MAC) has created this webpage to link you to as many at-home learning resources and activities being offered by NYC cultural institutions and beyond as possible. The list includes resources for families, individuals, teachers, and people with disabilities. They link to many institutions’ current offerings (including live streams from the MET opera) as well as podcasts and online classes.
    4. Advancing Digital Transformation in Museums has put together a guide to virtual museum resources, e-learning, and online collections. Every resource is free to access and enjoy! See the full list here. 

MEDITATION AND SELF-CARE 

During stressful times, practicing self-care becomes even more important. As anyone who has ever been responsible for the care of another can attest, it’s easy to ignore your own needs when somebody else’s seems so much more present or overwhelming. But when you forget to take care of yourself first, your effectiveness as a caregiver only diminishes.

Especially as well all practice physical distancing, it’s important that we continue to stay connected, maintain care support, and nurture personal health and wellness. We hope the resources below help. 

  1. Iona has a blog post with tips on practicing self-care in uncertain times. Read it here. 
  2. The Center for Mindful Living is offering intimate meditation groups and a variety of other social and support opportunities on their website.  See a list of their virtual events here. Questions: info@living-mindfully.org.
  3. Participate in virtual lunchtime meditation on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. 
  4.  Engage@HOME is a YouTube Channel offered by Montgomery County MD’s Caregiver Support program. New episodes are uploaded daily to support wellness and provide trusted updates.  Engage@HOME features: topical interviews, stories about quality resources, and opportunities to connect with others – all while maintaining resilience. Engage@HOME is free to view with no special software. Click here to visit the Youtube page. 
  5. Insight Meditation Community of Washington DC has a number of virtual meditations and classes. Visit their calendar here. 
  6. There are also a number of applications for smartphones that help users meditate or practice mindfulness. See if you can take just a few minutes when you wake up or before bed to ground yourself and practice deep breathing with these tools. 
  7. A large part of anxiety can come from a loss of control. And in those times, our mental health can suffer. It’s important to remember that you are not helpless, even in light of the current news events. Here are some ways you can take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty.  

Remember, we’re all in this together! If you have questions or need support, please contact Iona’s Helpline at 202-895-9448 or info@iona.org. We’re here to listen and help.

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