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Ask the MD: Caring for the Parkinson’s Care Partner during a Pandemic

Two friends embracing.

It’s been a tough year. Especially tough on some care partners who, even without the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and other significant events of these past few months, have a stressful and often isolating role. During this time, many people with Parkinson’s disease have experienced increased symptoms (from stress, interruptions in care or COVID-19 infection, for example). And in-home care and other resources, such as physical therapy, exercise and group support, have become less available. Many care partners are facing more responsibility, worry and burnout. 

As a care partner, you can try to prevent or reduce worry and burnout by caring for yourself, taking breaks and getting support. But how do you practice these tips in real life, especially now when you may feel as though you are “on” 24/7? Try to remember something is better than nothing — a short break is better than none, for example — and whatever you choose to do doesn’t have to be “perfect.” It can be impromptu or planned, new or routine. The most important thing is to focus on you, at least for a bit. Consider these tips:

  • Care for yourself
    Just five or 10 minutes a day focused on your own interests and health can boost your physical and emotional well-being. Find activities that lower your stress and look for ways to incorporate them throughout your day. Maybe you take a short walk before your partner wakes up, journal while you drink coffee, or relax in the bathtub before bed. Many people find mindfulness or meditation practices useful — and most you can do in five minutes or less. (Check out more tips to ease anxiety and stress.)

  • Take breaks
    For some, it may seem impossible to step away for even a moment. But short breaks — to write a gratitude list, call a friend, or, if safe, even sleep in a separate room to ensure adequate rest (you can listen in on your loved one with a monitor in case of emergency) can help you recharge. Depending on needs, costs and safety concerns, you might also consider hiring a caregiver or helper a few hours each week to allow for some personal time.

  • Get support
    A lot of people feel alone or isolated right now, but many are managing similar challenges. Join online chat forums, care partner support groups or one-to-one calls with others in your situation for an understanding ear and practical tips. Ask neighbors, friends or family for specific help (to pick up groceries or medication, for example). Talk with a social worker for personalized recommendations, including local resources, in-home care and other services. And, if helpful, work with a mental health professional (many are available virtually) to navigate the stress of caring for a loved one and yourself during this time.

Join MJFF’s Third Thursdays Webinar for Care Partners.

Read more pandemic caregiving tips from the MJFF community. 

Get the latest information and tips on Parkinson’s and COVID.

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