How Families Can Support Health Care Workers During COVID-19
RN-BC, MS, LMHC
The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of health care workers cannot be understated. They are experiencing unprecedented stress both at work and at home and need strong support systems in place to protect them. If you love a medical professional serving on the front lines of the global pandemic, here are some ways to help them address a variety of feelings and concerns:
- Give them time to decompress. Allow your health care worker to unwind after a shift or workday. Let them have space to relax, take a hot shower, have some quiet time, or go for a walk before they jump into the home routine.
- Look out for their basic needs. Your medical professional may be hyper-focused on taking care of their patients, coworkers, and family but neglecting their own needs. Help them help others by making sure they eat enough, drink enough water and sleep. Someone has to care for the caregiver.
- Give them a break. Rearrange household chores and tasks to give your health care worker a break. You can resume normal cooking and cleaning duties when things go back to normal. For now, try to make their life a bit easier so they can really recharge for the next shift and not argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes.
- Do not make them talk. It’s very possible your loved one does not want to discuss the details of their day. Respect that wish but let them know you are there if they want to talk about it later.
- Listen if they want to talk. If your health care worker wants to talk about their day or things they have experienced, show you care by really listening. Some of the things you hear may be upsetting or difficult to process, so try to focus on how the events affected your loved one specifically. Sharing difficult feelings is essential to maintaining good mental health.
- Acknowledge them. Make sure your loved one knows you are proud of them and the work they do to help others.
- Validate their feelings. Health care workers are amazing - but also scared, anxious, depressed, stressed, and overwhelmed. Remind them that it is okay to experience these feelings and they are not the only one feeling them.
- Be patient. They may be more irritable or emotional than usual. Working through high levels of stress often leads to irritability, crying, anger, and depression. Understand that these emotions are not directed at you or caused by you. Be patient with your loved one and remind them they are loved.