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As I ponder on what tech innovation I should cover for this article and reflect on all of the setbacks healthcare employees have faced since COVID began in 2020, I decided that, rather than tech innovation, it would be best to discuss innovative strategies to aid our most important resource…our human resource. This is something that certainly warrants thought, insight and innovation during what many people are labeling, the beginning of the Covid-19 “endemic”.
Imagine walking into a healthcare facility and finding there were no housekeepers, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, recreation, dietary, social workers and nutritionists onsite? Also imagine if residents were left to fend for themselves in the absence of these valuable and often forgotten heroes? Despite all of the setbacks, healthcare heroes continue to, not only make themselves available to our most vulnerable population, but also strive to go above and beyond. They continue to provide optimum care even when they themselves, or their loved ones may need this same care. As I reflect back to 2020 during the height of the pandemic, I remember devoting an entire day reaching out to funeral homes to inquire if they had room for our deceased residents.
Needless to say, my efforts were futile. Funeral homes were overrun with more bodies than they could accommodate. Funeral directors sometimes promised to return my calls, but many never did. As I continued to trudge along in my efforts, I remembered receiving a call at 10:30pm from a funeral director that had promised to return my call later in the morning when I had left a message. To my disappointment, he too did not have room for additional bodies. Though sadly disappointing, this call was a little different. Rather than a simple yes or no regarding accommodation, he showed compassion about being sorry for not being able to accommodate “my needs,” but he understood what we were going through and wanted to get back to me despite it being so late at night. I remember explaining to him about our dire situation to which he listened and offered words of encouragement that perhaps things may improve soon, and that if anything became available, he would reach out to let me know. As I reflect on that conversation, I realize that some of the people that were lost with nowhere to be placed, were mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. This made me realize how serious COVID was and feared enormously for what it could become.
Fast forward to two years later, and again reflecting on how far we have come in the battle against COVID, I think about the fallen heroes that died on the frontline
caring for our most vulnerable population. I also think about those that continue to put on their game faces every day to go out and give the best of themselves to the elderly, veterans, kids, and basically anyone in need at our healthcare institutions. As I reflect and ask myself, who provides the caregivers with what they need to continue giving? This thought intrigues me as I often hear about all of the strides being made to locate staff to cover various shifts, but seldom hear about locating services to cover the physical and emotional needs of those dedicated caregivers. Some have physically recovered from COVID, but never had the opportunity to explore resources for psychological support. Some have experienced the lost of their loved ones and didn’t have the opportunity for a traditional burial and therefore never had complete closure. It is this that I decided to explore some of the innovative strategies to assist caregivers.
Recognizing when to reach out for support is important and is often missed by caregivers as they are often the beacons of support for others. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), one needs to check in with themselves frequently and reach out for support if they’re experiencing a multiple of depressed emotions. These include irritability or anger, anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep deprivation, new or worsened substance abuse, fatigue, and finding it difficult to empathize with others. Several free services are available to assist caregivers including COVID Mental Health Support from the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition offering free mental health support.
The Emotional PPE Project is another support service that connects heath care professionals with licensed mental health professionals who can help. This service is free and does not require insurance. NAMI can also be contacted directly to access confidential professional support. In addition to these, there are other numerous support services available for health care professionals with both local and nationwide access.
"Despite all of the setbacks, healthcare heroes continue to, not only make themselves available to our most vulnerable population, but also strive to go above and beyond."
There are also “self-care” strategies and they include:
• Humor – use humor to cope and seek out the things that make you laugh. It is still the best medicine!
• Recognize – you are vital and are critically important in the fight against the pandemic and YOU are doing the best you can with the what’s available
• Sleep! – Sleep is important and one of the best ways to rejuvenate. Try to get at least 7 hrs. sleep daily
• Eat – every machine needs fuel, and the body is no exception. Ensure you eat as balance of a diet as possible. In addition, adequate hydration is essential to keep the juices flowing!
• Meditate – meditation relaxes you and in effect, reduces anxiety and stress. There are even online classes and apps available for this
• Exercise – Even little exercise has shown to be beneficial. Walking increases circulation and endurance and can be a great way to escape from the everyday. Simple muscle stretching and coordinated breathing techniques add to the benefits of exercise. You don’t have to join a gym to get going as many paths are available free of charge. Exercise apps, walking and bike paths and trails are plentiful!
• Outreach – to family, friends, co-workers and utilize employer support programs. Don’t go at it alone and talk to others for support. This is a double whammy as you get to mingle with others while obtaining that needed support. Make the call and reach out to support programs available though your employer support programs
• Stay positive – Healing improves when the mind is relaxed and in a positive state. Try to see the positive in others and yourself. Provide positive reinforcements to others every chance you get. Again, helping others helps you!
• Connect with your spirituality - Listen to your gut. Ask yourself “what am I feeling today?” Ensure you listen to the voice within you and act in ways to support it. Calming environments and music may aid this journey. Learn to appreciate what you have and be thankful to self and others that helped along the way
• Take a trip – Travel to a place you longed to explore. This can be anywhere from your state park to another state, or international travel. This helps you to focus and reflect on you as you explore other worlds outside your own
• Love – It’s important for yourself and others. Find ways to remember the good you’ve done and show compassion to others outside your “love circle.”
• Give – Last but not least, give of yourself to benefit others. Volunteering can be a great start in this journey. Helping out at a local soup kitchen or food pantry can be super satisfying and be a double whammy as you connect with the good in you to do good deeds for others
My hope is that someone can benefit from the tips I have provided, as many have helped me in my recovery from COVID.