Frontline Family Members: 5 Ways to Support the Health-care Worker in Your Life During the Pandemic by Mark Goulston
Most of us know and love someone working in the health-care industry. And chances are, we have seen them suffering due to COVID-19. At a time when our loved ones are dealing with the extreme (and traumatic) stress of caring for critically ill patients, you no doubt want to give them the support they need. But you might be unsure of what you can do besides wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands.
"If you are the partner, family member or friend of a health-care professional, the support you give them outside of work may help make it possible for them to keep showing up to do their jobs,” says Dr. Diane Hendel, coauthor of Why Cope When You Can Heal? "Maybe you can’t understand exactly what they are going through, but your actions will speak volumes about how much you care,” she adds. “That goes a long way.”
Here are some ways to make your loved one’s life easier when they need it most:
1. Take on Extra Household Duties at Home
Chances are the health-care worker in your life has less bandwidth for focusing on their responsibilities outside of work, so jump in and pick up the slack. Spouses or partners can take over the primary chores of housekeeping, food preparation and child care. Your loved one can still do the tasks they are comfortable performing, but they will feel relieved to know that the burden of responsibility isn’t solely on them.
Friends can also find ways to pitch in and help out. Offer to do a grocery run, treat them to delivery from their favorite takeout spot, or mail them a care package with a good book, a weighted blanket, a candle or an eye mask so they can relax and recharge in their downtime.
2. Plan Lighthearted Fun Interactions During Their Time Off
Help your loved one unplug after a long work week by keeping things lighthearted and fun. Get outdoors for a socially distanced hike. Plan a lazy day of streaming their favorite movies (think comedies or feel-good classics). If you have kids, plan a fun family project like baking a cake or making crafts.
3, Ask Them What They Need (or Don't Need!) When They Are Stressed Out
Your loved one is facing an unusual amount of stress right now, and they may not respond as they normally would to your well-meaning attempts to help out. So, ask them directly, “What can I do – or avoid doing – to help you when you feel anxious, stressed, triggered or otherwise upset?” You might learn that something you have been doing isn’t helpful at all, but chances are your loved one will have some great suggestions that you can try to lend support when they are struggling.
4. Make a Point to Really Listen to Them
Listening is one of the most powerful ways you can support anyone facing the traumatic stress of working the COVID frontlines. They are likely to need an empathetic listening ear more than they need a pep talk. People in health care are already incredibly strong and resilient, but they need to feel that they can let their guard down and express what might seem like "negative" emotions without being talked out of their feelings. Give them a safe space to share whatever, positive or negative, is on their mind.
5. Be on the Lookout for Changes in Behavior
If your normally optimistic and upbeat loved one is struggling, there may be telltale signals that something is wrong. Some signs to watch for:
- They start having angry outbursts or temper flares.
- They start crying much more than usual.
- They isolate and avoid you and other loved ones.
- They keep saying, “I’m fine” even when it’s clear they are just putting on a cheerful face.
If you notice these or other unusual changes, encourage your loved one to talk to a mental health professional. Their workplace may have an EAP (employee assistance program) with resources for counseling and support, or they can reach out to a therapist, priest or social worker.
During the darkest days of COVID-19, your love and caring is a beacon of light for the health-care worker in your life. And the support you offer now benefits not only them, it also enables them to give the best care to their current and future patients. This is one more way you can make a real difference in your community.
The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.
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