Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's was a challenging job even before COVID-19 came onto the scene. The demands of the disease leave less time for you to get out to see friends and family.
Social distancing increases that isolation. It may also be harder now to get your loved one the health care and support they need. This can be stressful, which can affect your mental or physical health. And you can't care for someone else when you don't feel well yourself.
Digital technology can help you stay connected to the outside world, co-workers, and loved ones, and it can also get you the help you need to be a good caregiver.
Advice and support are right in the palm of your hand. On your smartphone, you'll find apps to help you care for your loved one and yourself.
When caregiving becomes too stressful, turn to apps like Calm and Headspace. They include guided meditation programs to relax you. Sanvello and Dementia Advisor offer coaching and support, along with self-care strategies.
Brain training apps like BrainHQ or CogniFit provide mental stimulation. That's important when you're often at home with only your loved one for companionship. There are many more helpful apps out there -- including ones that offer advice on sleep and diet.
Apps can also be a remedy for loneliness. Free tools like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp keep you in touch friends and family, no matter where they live.
A few websites let you reach out to loved ones and connect you with resources in your local community when you can't venture out.
Connect2Affect offers a quiz to help you figure out if you're socially isolated. The website also has a directory of programs and services to keep you healthy and combat social isolation. Facebook offers a variety of support groups for dementia caregivers.
Memory cafes are places where people with dementia and their caregivers get together to listen to music, socialize, and get a break from day-to-day life. They're usually held in places like libraries or coffee shops, but these days, a lot of them have gone virtual.
Many religious organizations have also moved their services online. If you're spiritual, the prayer and sense of community you'll find during these worship sessions could help you get through hard times.
Gyms and exercise classes used to be places you could go to get a break and meet other people. During the pandemic, they may be too risky to visit in person. But that's no reason to skip exercise. Staying active is good for your mood and your health.
Video workout programs like SilverSneakers On-Demand and YMCA 360 bring the gym experience to your computer, smartphone, or TV. Some of these programs offer free introductory memberships during COVID-19. Or you could meet with a health coach or personal trainer remotely to help you stay motivated.
In-person doctor visits may be risky right now for older adults, who are more likely to have health complications from COVID. Telehealth brings these medical visits into your home. This gives you a way to reach your loved one's doctor whenever health or behavioral problems come up.
You can use telehealth for virtual medical visits or to reach out to the doctor whenever you need advice. During video chats, the doctor can see the problem firsthand and offer advice in real time. You can also collect your loved one's temperature, blood pressure, and other health readings to send straight to the doctor in between appointments.
Millions of people who'd never heard of Zoom before COVID-19 arrived now use it regularly for work meetings and virtual reunions. FaceTime and Skype are other video chat tools. You can use these services to host regular get-togethers, happy hours, or virtual dinners with friends and family.