The Gen XY Lifestyle

Caregivers need to take care too during the pandemic

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The COVID 19 Pandemic is having a drastic effect on our daily living and work. The necessary measures of social distancing and strict movement limitations have forced caregivers to rethink the way we do things and roles we assume.

For instance, home-based learning has required parents to take on the role of a teacher’s assistant; while those of us with children, elderly family members and family members with chronic diseases find ourselves taking on the role of a caregiver.

We find that the “refuge” of the office is no longer available along with many other facilities and services geared towards their care are now limited even as we exit the Circuit Breaker.

It may seem daunting to us to be suddenly entrusted with taking care of everyone’s health. However, I believe we can take care of their health and ours, even if confined at home. We just need to take some good approaches.

Take care of ourselves

Caretakers, please take care of yourselves first! Just like the in-flight safety videos, always put on an oxygen mask for yourself first then on your child during an aviation emergency. Caretaker burnout is a major reason for accidents or lapses in patient care. And this “circuit breaker” or lockdown period is an extremely stressful period that would necessitate caretakers to look after ourselves.

Being a caregiver is physically demanding, so give yourself time to rest, have a decent amount of sleep (between 6 to 8 hours a day) and replenish your reserves. Cat naps during the day are useful especially if your family members need extra help at night. Hydrate throughout the day with about 6 to 8 glasses a day as a rough guide. Add on another glass of water for every caffeinated drink you consume.

Diligent about hygiene

As a caregiver and the most likely person to go out to buy groceries and collect medications, you are at the greatest risk of an infection to your currently home-bound family members, who are already likely to be more vulnerable to infections of any kind due to their chronic conditions and lowered immunity. It is important for you to abide by the social distancing measures while you are out and about. Clean your shoes when you re-enter your home, take a shower immediately, and deposit your clothes into the washing machine or a designated container. See a doctor promptly if you become unwell. 

Monitor often

Chronic conditions can display a wide range of symptoms which vary in severity over time. Therefore, as caregivers, we need to be able to identify changes in their symptoms and respond appropriately. A tele-consultation with their usual doctors will be useful to understand the treatment regime required for their chronic condition and for replenishing their regular medications. It is particularly important that we ask the doctors about any potential warning signs of a worsening of their conditions and at what junctures should we seek emergency medical assistance.

Beyond their physical well-being, it is also crucial to care for their mental well-being. It is very stressful for our family members who may already have an established daily routine to suddenly find themselves confined to their homes all day. We can draw up a new timetable to replace their usual pre-pandemic routine as a transient means to help them regain some form of regularity. Plan activities that involve active participation, such as video chats with extended family members and their friends, Sudoku sessions, jigsaw puzzles, light stretching and exercises as appropriate. Avoid passive and debilitating activities like sitting in front of the television or lying whole day in bed.

While the pandemic is changing the way we have to do things and the roles we take for now, there are simple yet effective ways we can adopt as caregivers to our elderly family members.

This article was contributed by Dr Matthew Tan.

He is the resident doctor at DTAP Clinic, he is an avid advocate for the accessibility and inclusivity of health care. He firmly believes that every person should be given the chance to understand their medical conditions and work together with their doctors to achieve their health goals.



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