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How to sustain & protect yourself as a caregiver during isolation.

Now more than ever, it’s important for health systems and health care organizations to create and ensure an infrastructure and resources to support physicians, nurses, and care team members.

The following lists provide practical strategies for health system leadership to consider in support of their physicians and care teams during COVID-19.

Being a caregiver can be rewarding but can also be physically and mentally taxing. This is even more true during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Though caring for your patient or your loved one is often the number one priority, it is just as important to ensure and attend to your own physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore, we encourage caregivers to make meaningful time for themselves and engage in self-care.

By doing so, reduces the likelihood of developing caregiver stress. Caregiver stress also referred to as caregiver burden, is the caregiver’s negative impact on the caregiver’s emotional, physical, social, and financial functioning, increasing the risk for depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and other health concerns. Caregiver stress is one of the greatest predictors of negative outcomes for the caregivers themselves and can negatively impact the individual’s quality of care.

It can be easy to make time for yourself, especially while sheltering in place due to COVID-19. However, it is still important to find a consistent time every week to focus on yourself and your own needs. Below are some tips to help manage caregiver stress:

  • Exercise can impact mood and cognition. As medically permitted, set time aside to engage in an exercise routine. Go for a walk or run or do some yoga. Many videos are available online for free: The Body Coach TV, Fitness Blender, Yoga with Adriene, or search YouTube for your favorite exercise type. There are thousands of free videos available!
  • Diet can also impact mood and cognitive functioning. Every once in a while, it is nice to treat yourself to a good delicious meal. However, it is important to avoid stress eating. Allow yourself to order or cook your favorite meal (including dessert!) and include healthy food options. Remember, what is good for your heart is good for your brain.
  • Remaining socially active is important to overall health and mood. Do not isolate yourself from others. Take some time to call a friend or family. Zoom, Skype, and Facetime provide free methods to video-conference with loved ones during the pandemic. Even though meeting in person may not always be possible, video conferencing is an alternate way to stay connected and spend time with others.
  • Good sleep is imperative to overall wellbeing as well as your immune system. When caring for loved ones, our sleep may be impacted by their sleep patterns and needs. Keeping a regular schedule as much as possible will help define sleep-wake times and make sure the environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep.

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