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Coping with Covid-19 as a Family

Holding hands with gloves

By Jane Kingsu Cheng

Finding out that you’re infected with Covid-19 can leave anyone feeling numb. But this is not the only fight you have to deal with, discrimination for being sick with this virus brings in more complications. “When a patient is confirmed positive, they are stigmatized. At the same time, the person feels scared because it is a deadly disease. The person also needs to isolate himself to protect the family, leaving him alone,” explains Dr. Paul Lee of Talk to Dr. Lee, who has over 30 years of experience as a psychiatrist. 

If there’s one thing we all know about Covid-19, it’s that you have to beat it alone—in your hospital room. It’s highly infectious that the majority of the population would want you out of their sight and nowhere near them. Even family members are not exempted from this, as they are being treated as unconfirmed carriers of the disease. How does one handle this? 

Family support

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Dr. Ruby Jade Lee

Dr. Ruby Jade Lee, Paul’s daughter and also a psychiatrist, stresses the importance of providing emotional support for each other, “Physical presence may not be advisable, but there are other ways to communicate.” She also adds that one must not hesitate to talk about their feelings with each other, including fears, worries, and sadness. Once these negative thoughts have been released, it is good for other family members to counter them by staying positive in times of stress. “It is important to take care of oneself,” says Ruby. 

Aside from regular communication with each other, it is also crucial that one keeps tabs with healthcare experts since the patient is confined. Ruby adds, “This would help relieve the family of this undue anxiety as they cope with the situation. The family is updated and assured of the patient’s condition.”

Signs and symptoms

One may not realize it, but there is a possibility that you’re all going through the wave of emotions, just on different levels. Even though you’re not the one who’s infected, you may come across people who look at you differently, thinking you’re most probably infected, too. You carry a heavy burden of being strong for your family member who’s infected, leaving you spent to fight off your own internal issues. So keep an eye out for each other. 

These warning signs include excessive worrying causing restlessness and more fatigue than usual, inability to concentrate, irritability, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping. According to Paul, one might even be experiencing panic attacks without realizing it. Watch out for difficulty of breathing, palpitations, trembling, feeling loss of control as if one is going crazy, cold sweats, nausea, dizziness, numbness, and chills. 

Looking the other way and belittling these signs might bring these anxieties to a higher level, with depression slowly creeping in. Here are some red flags: extreme sadness most of the day and nearly every day, decrease in interest in any activity, significant weight loss or weight gain or significant change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, loss of energy or extreme fatigue, feeling of worthlessness or feeling of inappropriate guilt, difficulty concentrating, and morbid thoughts of death or suicide. 

How to deal

If you see any of these warning signs, it is best to confront them and find ways on how to overcome them. Paul shares these tips.

  1. Limit screen time

Control what you read and absorb on the internet. Verify the date you receive and focus on useful information. 

  1. Express yourself.

Talk to someone, anyone you are comfortable with. Express yourself thoughts, feelings, and worries. Reach out to others too. 

  1. Fuel your mind and body.

Get enough sleep and rest. Do not disrupt normal sleep cycle and habits. Eat on time and have a balanced diet. Control or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, drinks, and food that contain caffeine, including chocolates and soda. These trigger anxiety and can affect sleep. 

  1. Focus on things you can control.

You may not be able to control the situation but you can control your mind, your thoughts, and your attitude. 

  1. Be productive

Do activities that make you feel good. Get back to hobbies you enjoy, declutter, reorganize, cook, so many things can be done at home. Use screen time in productive ways, download workout applications, cooking apps, or learn new skills online. 

Call for help

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Dr. Paul Lee

When self-help efforts are not enough, Ruby reminds us that there are professionals who can help both the patient and the family members. Counseling can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, “This holds true for the families who are taking care of the patient or having difficulty coping with the situation.”

But what if you come across someone who is stubborn and doesn’t believe in asking for help? Ruby’s advice makes it easy to comprehend, like going to the dentist to have your teeth checked, “Tell them that ‘it is okay not to be okay,’ and there is help available. Make them aware how their symptoms are affecting their personal, social, or even career functions. Explain to them the need for seeking medical treatment. Make them feel it is normal to get mental health.” 

*Talk to Dr. Lee is offering free online consultations for frontliners and Covid-affected families until April 30. Book your appointments by visiting their website talktodrlee.com or Facebook booking @talktodrlee. This online service is developed by husband-and-wife team Yves Gonzalez of Google PH and Crystal Gonzalez.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/04/29/coping-with-covid-19-as-a-family/)

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