Tuesday 27 October, 2020

Caregivers at increased risk of mental health disorders during COVID

Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health & Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne.

Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health & Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne.

Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health & Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne, says caregivers are at increased risk of suffering from mental health disorders as a result of the increased demand on their services due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He said that in addition to longer working hours, there is also the fear of contracting the virus and/or passing it on to their loved ones.

Dr Goulbourne was addressing a virtual caregivers’ symposium hosted by the University of Technology’s (UTech) College of Health Sciences.

Caregivers fall into two main categories – clinicians and trained individuals, who receive compensation to provide intermittent or continuous in-home services, and informal caregivers, who have not received formal training and care for ailing family members or friends. The latter category of caregiver does not typically receive compensation.

Dr Goulbourne said that this group of front-line workers are more vulnerable as they are at greater risk of coming into contact with infected persons, while carrying out their duties.

He said that this is particularly the case as the country experiences community spread, and the rate of infection increases.

He noted that the fear and anxiety of becoming infected, along with limited social interaction, the stress of increased sanitising activities as part of the infection prevention and control measures, and the grief from loss of a client or loved one in their care, may contribute to depression.

Dr Goulbourne provided several coping strategies to assist caregivers in maintaining their mental and physical well-being.

These include maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a wholesome diet and adequate exercise, getting regular checkups, and scheduling periods of rest for rejuvenation.

“Take care of yourself. Ensure you are taking the necessary medication, schedule and keep doctor’s appointments, and have quiet time for yourself. If you are not well as the caregiver, then you will not be able to offer quality care to those who are depending on you,” Dr Goulbourne said.

He further urged caregivers to voice challenges they are having to family members or employers so that these can be addressed.

The two-day virtual symposium was held on September 10 and 17 under the theme: ‘Supporting and Strengthening the Caregivers’ Role in a COVID-19 Pandemic.’

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