Caregiving and connecting during COVID-19

Posted on: Friday, April 17th, 2020

In the two-weeks following San Antonio’s stay-at-home orders, 450 calls were made to 400 family caregivers of a person diagnosed with dementia. Hundreds of phone calls ensuring this group of caregivers stay seen and heard.

Like many organizations responding to COVID-19, the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and the UT Health San Antonio Caring for the Caregiver program canceled their weekly events for the safety of their patients that fall into the vulnerable age population for the disease.

The canceled events not only provided information on how caregivers could support their loved one with the disease, but also provided a place for caregivers to talk about their collective experiences.

Before COVID-19, the shared experiences often resembled a mother of three checking-in on her father who is taking care of his wife with dementia or a woman driving to the nursing home every day to visit her husband with Parkinson’s disease.

“We have people that if we had an event every day, they would be there every day,” said Carolyn White, Ph.D., RN, director of the UT Health San Antonio Caring for the Caregiver program.

In this time that has brought change and uncertainty for many, Melissa Flores, LPC, counselor at the Biggs Institute, notes the new challenges caregivers may be facing.

“The current situation can be anxiety provoking when living with dementia, especially with those that are having a hard time understanding what is happening. It can be changing routines or schedules, making things feel a bit thrown off,” said Flores. “Resources that were once utilized may be limited, changing their everyday lives.”

Because dementia is a progressive disease, many caregivers are concerned with how to remain connected to their loved ones during the pandemic.
“[It’s] trying to use Facetime, but the family member isn’t able to understand the person on the camera,” said Dr. White. “[It’s the husband] spending most of the day [at his wife’s nursing home], going twice a day and now he is not going at all,” she said. “He is worried what this will do with her course of dementia.”

Staff of the Biggs Institute and the Caring for the Caregiver program knew they had to continue conversations with caregivers during this new shared experience and foster a virtual world of connection.

“We are continuing to offer telephone counseling with new and existing [patients] to have the space to talk through anxieties and current difficulties, while finding appropriate coping strategies and resources,” said Flores. “We are also working with our partner, the UT Health Caring for the Caregiver program, who have compiled a great list of resources, videos and help for caregivers during this situation.”

If you are a caregiver of a person with dementia and would like to talk to our counselor, call 210-450-9960 to make an appointment. 

Learn more about available resources for caregivers during COVID-19 >>

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