Although the country is slowly working towards reopening, quarantines are still in effect in many states and social distancing may be in effect for months to come. During this difficult time, many people suffering from depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The caregivers of children with special needs and elderly dementia patients are much more likely to be suffering in silence.
Caring for Children with Special Needs
During quarantine, children with special needs have been thrown off their routines and separated from the caregivers and specialists who they are used to seeing. Children with special needs often have a team of caregivers that includes parents, teachers, physical therapists, psychologists, and doctors, depending on the condition. They rely on this variety of caregivers to help them with learning, moving, and growing.
Children with special needs often have school lessons catered specifically to them by their teachers and they may include various forms of therapy to help them with motor skills, speech, and more. These professionals also know to handle emotional breakdowns and outbursts in safe ways. Children with special needs, and even adults, also go to summer camps with 11 million others to continue learning all year round.
While the parents of kids with special needs know how to care for their children, other members of a care team are trained professionals who know to not just care, but help improve the lives of children with special needs. They also know how to deal with the outbursts and breakdowns a child with special needs may exhibit when attempting to deal with depression, confusion, and frustration they can’t otherwise voice.
As parents take on the roles of teacher, physical therapist, and psychologist, they can quickly become overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. Parents are simply not equipped to take on all these roles and as they try it becomes extremely stressful and overwhelming.
Caring for Loved Ones with Dementia
Similarly to parents of children with special needs, the caregivers to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s are in a difficult position. Adults with Alzheimer’s, a condition that makes up 80% of dementia cases, also rely on routines, relationships, and stimulation to help with the confusion and loss the disease brings. The social isolation and high-risk factors of COVID-19 make caring for patients with dementia difficult and draining.
Most patients with Alzheimer’s are at very high risk if they get COVID-19, making social isolation is stricter for them. If they are in a nursing facility, senior living facility, or memory care facility, they likely cannot have in-person visitors to prevent spreading COVID-19 inside the facility. This isolation from family can actually worsen their condition. Family members should try to stay in contact via phone calls, video chat, or another way. If they are at home with a caregiver, however, it can be a challenging time.
Caregivers need to constantly tend to their loved ones with dementia as they can easily wander off, harm themselves, or worse. They also need to be more vigilant about keeping them clean, washing hands, and wearing masks. All of these are things that someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s may not understand, forget to do, or find frustrating. Some people with Alzheimer’s may also be aggressive due to the changes around them or in their mental state, which make living with them dangerous.
Caring for Caregivers
If you’re a caregiver, remember that you can’t care for anyone if you don’t care for yourself. If you are feeling depressed, seek out professional help. A shocking 80% of people with depression don’t seek help that can change their lives. It can be difficult but you should try to take some time for yourself while another family member takes care of your loved one. Do something you find relaxing and avoid the news as much as possible.
Don’t be afraid to speak up about your situation to family and friends if you need to. If you’re a single parent to a child with special needs or the sole caregiver of an adult with Alzheimer’s, make sure you have someone you can call for help if you get overwhelmed and need a break. If you need advice or help, you can call the Alzheimer’s Association hotline at (800) 272-3900, and the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.