Faculty and staff of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, in partnership with the Caring for the Caregiver program of the School of Nursing, are concerned about caregivers’ mental health as the necessary – yet uncomfortable – isolation imposed by the coronavirus crisis reaches six months.

“There are several resources that are important to share with caregivers who are dealing with a great deal during the pandemic,” said Melissa Flores, LPC, clinical counselor and community programs coordinator with the Glenn Biggs Institute.

“The Biggs Institute offers resources for counseling and support groups, alongside the activities we are doing with the Caring for the Caregiver program,” Flores said. “We do these programs to combat isolation and promote social engagement. We want to get this information to caregivers who may be struggling right now.”

The Caring for a Parent with Dementia Support Group meets regularly online using Zoom video. So does the Primary Progressive Aphasia Support Group for Patients and their Caregivers. Visit support groups for regular updates.

A listing of helpful resources for the pandemic is from the Caring for the Caregiver program.

Help is as close as a computer or smartphone. The information below is from a Biggs Institute webpage titled coronavirus caregiving tips, where Flores writes:

As we navigate this time together, below are recommendations to assist caregivers in processing grief in a healthy way. These tips can be helpful when dealing with the sense of loss regarding the impacts of COVID-19 or when dealing with the natural grief that comes for caring for someone with a progressive disease.

Allow yourself the time to feel emotions, including the bad ones.
Rather than trying to push away your thoughts or feeling guilty for having them, embrace each as they come and then let them go. Ignoring these feelings may lead to greater and longer lasting challenges later.

Don’t fight grief; you won’t be overcome by it.
Often individuals feel that if they let any emotion out, they will “lose it.” Yes, we may feel strong emotions and they may be uncomfortable for a moment, but just as with all things, it will pass.

Find a method of expressing your grief.
Grief is helped along if we find a safe space to express it, whether that be out loud or to ourselves. Having a dedicated space to acknowledge grief can make it easier to handle. Talking with a trusted friend, prayer or journaling are some ideas to get started.

Guilt is an enemy that is unjustified.
It is justified and normal to wish things weren’t this way or even that you are not in this situation. That in no way makes you a bad caregiver.

While there are common stages of grief, they do not always go in order and they are not always “passed.”
The traditional stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. However, it is important to note that this does not always happen in order, and just because you have moved through a stage doesn’t mean you can’t have some of those feelings again.

Find comfort in the things you can control.
While we cannot control the situation or things we have lost, we can control how we respond to those adversities. We can control every action we take through the course of a day.

There is no time frame on grief.
Grief does not have a time frame and does not have to be resolved by a certain point. For caregivers, there can be new losses to process. Be kind to yourself in knowing that there is no timeline or limits that need to be followed.

Focus on your needs.
Take time for yourself to assess what it is that you are needing to do, think or feel, then allow yourself to do those things. It’s OK to seek some space, even if that means going outside alone or to the other room.

Seek support.
If you find that you are not able to handle grief and it has become too much for you, that is OK. You are not alone. Seek support from health care professionals. Visit the Biggs Institute’s COVID-19 resource webpage or the Caring for the Caregiver webpage for information to help you navigate during this time. We are also available for phone counseling services to discuss your concerns. To make a counseling appointment, call 210-450-9960.