Caring for someone with a serious mental is difficult at the best of times. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic brings a new set of challenges. Here are some tips for family members in Alberta.

  • Stay calm and keep informed. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health holds a daily briefing – usually at 3:30. Watch the briefings and get other updates at alberta.ca/covid19.
  • Anxiety can become overwhelming; try to reduce by stress by sticking to a routine. Consistency of mealtimes and other regular procedures can go a long way toward easing anxious thoughts. Playing music, watching movies, calisthenics and other fun activities can also help.
  • As in any time of crisis, conspiracy theories abound. Someone who experiences paranoia as a symptom may be easily misled. Listen to what your loved one tells you. Don’t argue, but you can present another perspective based on the facts you know. Websites like snopes.com investigate common rumours and ascertain their validity.
  • Unfortunately, crises often provoke predatory scams, and those living with mental illness are often vulnerable. Providing your loved one with facts in a clear, calm manner can help.
  • Maintain cleanliness and encourage your loved one to wash hands thoroughly. Regularly clean door knobs, handles, countertops, TV remote controls and other frequently-handled objects.
  • If your loved one is in hospital, check this page from AHS about restrictions on visitors. Be kind to hospital staff – they’re operating under stressful conditions, working long hours and are undoubtedly concerned about their own family members. Voice any concerns you may have respectfully and appropriately.
  • If you get sick or need to self-isolate, try to keep in touch by telephone, Skype or FaceTime. Relationships are a vitally important part of recovery, and your loved one will benefit from you keeping in touch. You may want to consider having another family member or close friend as back-up in case you can no longer visit in person.
  • While many in-person support groups are cancelled, some are offering telephone support. The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta offers online support and educational forums; these can be very helpful, and are easy to access even if you don’t have a lot of computer skills.
  • Practice self-care: take breaks, go for a walk, call a friend or do whatever helps you unwind. Remember to stay hydrated and get sufficient rest.

These are trying times and we need to support one another. This pandemic will be hardest on the most vulnerable, who are already underserved. By pulling together we’ll be stronger. If you have any tips to add, please leave a comment below. Your name won’t be published – only your initials (unless you indicate otherwise).