MENTAL HEALTH : ADULTS
Caring for THE CAREGIVERS
COVID compounded challenges to adults responsible for kids and seniors WRITTEN BY CINDY SCHWEICH HANDLER
COURTESY OF RESPECTIVE HOSIPTALS ; REICH-BYRON : COURTESY OF JONATHAN BRETON
DR . YERAZ MARKARIAN
DIRECTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY ,
DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY & BEHAVIORAL
HEALTH SERVICES Hackensack Meridian Health
DR . MANISHA PARULEKAR
DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF GERIATRICS
Hackensack University Medical Center
CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES Bergen New Bridge Medical Center
MANAGER OF BEHAVIOR HEALTH Englewood Health
For the “ sandwich generation ” caring for children and / or their elderly parents , COVID added another degree of difficulty , says DR . YERAZ MARKARIAN , Director of Psychology , Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Services , at Hackensack Meridian Health . “ We have our own fears and concerns over our own health ,” she says .“ If we ’ re the pillar for other people and we ’ re not at our best , we ’ re not going to be able to support them . Adding the feeling of responsibility over someone else ’ s health can cause caregiver burnout . “
JUDITHREICH-BYRON , apsychotherapist in Tenafly , says she ’ s seen alot of mothers who have had to care for young kids at home learning remotely , and who felt pressured , lost and lonely , especially ifthey had to pause their careers . “ Against abackdrop of fear of losing your life oraloved one , such uncertainty can cause tremendous anxiety ,” she says .
The stress was no less for loved ones of seniors , who couldn ’ tvisit them in aconsistent way , says DR . MANISHAPARULEKAR , Director of the Division of Geriatrics at Hackensack University Medical Center . When they finally could see their parents , adult children would “ realize their parents have memory loss after months ofisolation ,” she says . “ Lack of socialization is amajor risk factor for dementia .”
Worry and sadness during aglobal pandemic is natural . To determine whether they should be treated byahealth care professional , “ We talk about changes in sleep , appetite , withdrawal from family and friends , and not getting joy from the activities that previously kept you engaged ,” says KRISTINE PENDY , chief clinical officer of Behavioral Health Services atBergen New Bridge Medical Center . “ Those can be signs that you need to speak to someone .”
At Englewood Health , patients may be referred bytheir doctors oruse acentral support line and get connected to services . Virtual group therapy for older adults has helped them stay connected and socializing , which is critical to emotional wellbeing , says DANIELLE
LAMBERT , Englewood ’ s manager of behavior health . “ We ’ ve all been lacking asense of connection with each other ,” she says .
Dr . Markarian agrees .“ Social connections are the antidote toloneliness , and reduce depressive thoughts ,” she says . “ Laughing boosts endorphins .”
Reich-Byron recommends warding off anxiety and depression byadding structure to each day — maintaining aroutine , exercising , walking outside , taking afun class online . “ Therapy can not be standalone ,” she says .“ There have tobeactivities that provide meaningful engagement .”
And lifestyle modifications help the mind stay healthy , says Dr . Parulekar : eating a Mediterranean diet rich inproduce , whole grains , olive oil and seafood ; exercising ; and getting agood night ’ s sleep .
As for asimple step that means alot , Lambert suggests staying on top of each other ’ s state of well-being .“ Ask how everyone isdoing ,” she says .“ Have that conversation . It ’ s our responsibility to check in .” ❖
@ 201magazine ( 201 ) HEALTH 2022 EDITION 23