GRANDPAD CHIEF GERONTOLOGIST DR. KERRY BURNIGHT, PH.D., RECOMMENDS SIX THINGS FAMILY CAREGIVERS CAN DO TO EASE THE STRESS OF THE HOLIDAYS AND ENSURE OLDER LOVED ONES STAY SAFE AND CONNECTED
The end-of-year holidays are upon us, and to help family caregivers navigate and maintain balance and well-being in the weeks ahead, GrandPad, creator of the purpose-built tablet for seniors over the age of 75, is providing “Countdown to 2021” caregiving tips.
It’s currently estimated that 1 in 5 American adults are unpaid family caregivers; that’s a total of 53 million adults. The continued COVID-19 pandemic has broadened and intensified the responsibilities of caregivers, who say caregiving has become more emotionally, physically, and financially difficult during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 77% of caregivers say the pandemic is affecting their holiday plans. To help families cope with these changes, Dr. Kerry Burnight, Ph.D., chief gerontologist for GrandPad, is recommending that family caregivers take steps to maintain good health and mental well-being during this stressful season, while taking extra time to ensure that seniors do not experience isolation and the resulting negative physical side effects.
Self-care tips for family caregivers
According to Dr. Kerry, there are six primary areas of well-being that caregivers should be mindful of, and simple ways they can bolster their own well-being.
Social. A daily video call makes all the difference. It not only in provides needed social connection to your loved one, but also diminishes your worry or guilt. If your loved one lives with cognitive impairment, GrandPad’s “auto-answer” feature is life-changing. The senior does not have to press any buttons to accept your video call, your face pops up on their screen automatically.
Mental. Encourage family members to take turns calling older family members who are living alone and have restricted visiting access. Use multi-party video features like Zoom to schedule a call with the whole family. GrandPad is currently rolling out Zoom on a limited basis, with plans to expand access in 2021.
Physical. When caring for others it is all too easy for caregivers to put their own needs aside. Skipping sleep, exercise, downtime, and nutritious foods is a quick route to burnout. Caring for others becomes even more stressful if you do not make your own health a priority.
Occupational. Many caregivers are balancing unpaid caregiving responsibilities with employment and/or child care. And, because of the pandemic, caregivers may also be living with the financial strain of unemployment or underemployment. Tame self-criticism with the mantra “my best is enough.” Your hard work matters, even when (especially when) no one thanks you for it.
Intellectual. With the added strain of caregiving in a pandemic, the last thing you feel like doing is learning something new. But consider this: learning and growth are energizing and can put a spring back in your step. There are great, cost-free, online resources to learn almost anything. It’s never too late.
Spiritual. To help calm your mind and maintain focus on your faith and things that bring you peace, try practicing four-count breathing. Simply shut your eyes, breath in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four. Then start over again. Do this a few times a day to help focus on your faith tradition or a word that evokes peace.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that caregivers truly are the unsung heroes of this era. If you are one of the 53 million Americans who take on the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of older adults, it’s essential that you allow yourself to recognize your value, because caring for yourself is as important as caring for your aging loved one,” said Burnight.
“If you are one of the 53 million Americans who take on the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of older adults, it’s essential that you allow yourself to recognize your value, because caring for yourself is as important as caring for your aging loved one.”
Tips to ensure safety and connections for seniors
The pandemic has heightened the challenge of staying connected, maintaining everyday health, and managing existing conditions for seniors because of restrictions on family visits and clinical interactions. While self-care is vital, Dr. Kerry also suggests that family caregivers pay attention to the following aspects of well-being for their aging family members.
Social. Caregivers can surround loved ones with connections and reduce isolation by asking other family members and friends to take turns checking in with older adults each day, whether through a short phone call or video chat.
Emotional. Boost emotional well-being for seniors by sharing memories and talking about things that bring them joy. Use GrandPad’s family photo and video stream feature to share pictures and videos, and keep loved ones up to date on family events. This is also an ideal way to share favorite family photos of past holidays.
Intellectual. Intellectual stimulation is important at every stage of life. Activities like listening to music, playing games, or catching up on current events and speaking to others via phone or video calls provides needed stimulation. GrandPad features a wide variety of engaging options that come built in, for reliable and secure connection to activities anytime, anywhere.
Physical. Use video technology to check on things that can indicate health concerns or a decline in cognition, such as a sudden change in appearance, speech, energy, and grooming.
Spiritual. Seek the wisdom of older adults. Ask your loved one about how they have persevered through hard times in the past and how their faith played a role. These conversations are mutually beneficial and can be among the most meaningful moments you will share together.
GrandPad has become a favorite technology gift for older adults and people who have difficulty using traditional mobile devices because it is designed to address the most common points of frustration for these individuals. Features that make GrandPad a perfect fit for seniors include:
Ready to use, right out of the box — no setup required.
Enables pre-loaded “trusted circle” family contacts, photos, and apps
Built-in LTE (no home WiFi needed)
24x7 always-on, live, personal tech support
Closed network for greater security (no one outside the “trusted circle” can contact a GrandPad user)
Secure internet browsing
Video and voice calling
Multi-party Zoom calling (currently being rolled out on a limited basis)
Texting and emailing
Family photo and video sharing
Curated entertainment content, music, and brain games