Several pop-up windows from different social media platforms are assembled together. One shows a bike with a sad face next to it, with replies offering money and a replacement bike. Another shows a computer with a question mark, with replies showing different laptops. The final window shows a man smiling and carrying a bag of groceries with a reply full of hearts.

People Helping People

I don’t have to say it, but I will: things have been hard lately. COVID-19 has thrown most of our lives at least sideways, if not completely upside-down. I’ve been finding it important to find good things to look at amongst the uncertainty and chaos -- and for those of you who are caregivers of someone with Alzheimer's disease, added uncertainty and chaos is the opposite of what you need right now!

Be patient with yourself

I probably don’t need to tell you self-care is incredibly important right now, but here it is: take care of yourself, be patient with yourself. I’ve discovered even though I am doing less in a day, living in the era of a pandemic is distracting and exhausting. Many caregivers may be doing more because outside help may be inaccessible or inadvisable right now to keep loved ones safe.

However, you also need to be at your best -- find ways to ensure you get time for yourself every day, and as you need it. Local organizations may be able to provide assistance as well -- on top of the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s support line, I’ve also seen lots of great support being offered/given at a distance via my city’s Mutual Aid Facebook group such as with pet care and grocery drop-offs: don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Find the bright spots

Make sure you take some time out for yourself to find the bright spots in the uncertainty we are living in right now. Scrolling Facebook endlessly may not be helpful, but I find Instagram to be a lot less lamenting and a lot more doing. The exception to my Facebook thought is, of course, the Mutual Aid group I mentioned above.

Yesterday I saw someone with a classmate who needed a computer and within an hour 2 people had offered. I also saw 7 people respond to taking in someone’s mom’s dog. And I saw on Twitter a doctor whose bike was stolen in London, a guy say he will buy him a new one, and another person said she will share the cost -- and others jumped on since I last checked. There's also this guy and his quarantine “treadmill”.

I have heard of a friend finding her mom who has Alzheimer's old baseball reruns, and many community members jumped into the conversation of how to help -- now their home is full of the sounds of baseball, and they are both happy.

You’re online -- use it to find the bright spots, not just the sad news.

People helping people

People aren’t just helping each other on Facebook. Provinces have set up informal volunteer networks with expedited background checks on websites run by the provincial government. These resources may be pre-existing in your city, state, province, or territory, or they may be building up during COVID-19. If you are a caregiver, making use of these services. Turning to neighbors-helping-neighbors for support may help manage non-caregiving tasks.

In situations where the person you are caring for is relatively independent, setting up a system with a neighbor may be helpful, too. A friend provided an older neighbor with green, yellow, and red paper to place in her window that read "I am fine", "I need help with an errand", "I need emergency help" -- though I really hope the red paper would be replaced with a phone call, or that I am misunderstanding!

Plan for what you can

Everyone’s situation is so different that it is hard to know where we can all start -- and we can plan for many things but not for everything. Right now, I think it is important to identify as many sources of support as we can -- for ourselves and our loved ones -- and keep things as normal as possible in these abnormal and rapidly changing times.

It is important to lean on each other (even if at a distance!) and maintain good self-care (and sleep!). Find the number of respite or support organizations you can call if you need to—take breaks, and find out what is out there before you need it.

If we work together -- even when apart -- we will get through this.

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