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COVID-19 resources for patients and carers

Our researchers provide some tips and tricks on navigating this time to come out healthy the other end.

Disruption to daily routines in the wake of coronavirus and access to physical services can be a cause of confusion and anxiety for many, as we adapt to uprooted working, learning and socialising habits. Many of the people we see in our clinics already experience heightened levels of confusion in the face of disrupted routines and for patients of Brain and Mind Centre clinics, their families and support networks, this is a particularly fraught time. 

For carers and patients seeking advice on managing physical isolation, we have gathered advice from some of our researchers here. The tips and resources in these links comes from specialists in youth mental health, ageing and dementia, sleep disorders and gambling clinic, but the common thread running through the tips and resources highlights some factors of health and wellbeing are universal. From social connections, good sleep patterns and healthy routine there are some things we can all do to see people through this time. We also have some ways you can participate – with the launch of two new online surveys  into understanding the impacts of COVID-19. 

Some tips from our researchers

Staying connected with as much human contact as possible is a key to mental health and wellbeing. While most people have quickly moved over to Digital technology to keep in contact with work, school and social connections, people with cognitive or movement disorders have found it much more difficult to adapt. Checking in regularly is important for mental health and stimulation, but a real voice – over the phone or video is more helpful than a text or email.

Dementia patients will find this a particularly confusing time. Likewise, family members will be navigating extra responsibilities looking after someone's wellbeing remotely. Our Frontier clinic has compiled some advice to help support someone with dementia. ... [link to Olivier's video and their info]

The mental health benefits of exercise are well documented. Our youth mental health team lists regular exercise, fresh air and a break from screens as simple daily actions young people can take to maintain health and wellbeing. For people with limited mobility, Parkinson’s disease or movement disorders this is equally important but more challenging. We've included a video below from Prof Simon Lewis that better explains this.

The Brain and Mind Centre Sleep and Circadian Biology team prepared the following tips:

  1. Try to get good sleep quality: It’s not just the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep that’s important. Keeping mentally and physically active in the daytime and early evening will help facilitate deep sleep. Avoid the urge to nap unless it’s a very brief 10-minute nap in the early afternoon. Remember, naps count in your total sleep time and if you nap for too long this will interfere with your deep sleep at night.
  2. Aim to sleep within 20-30 minutes of going to bed: During these stressful times it’s important to allow time and opportunity to relax and wind down during the evening. Avoid too much social media, or too much TV or radio regarding Covid-19 before bedtime. Try to limit this to morning or early evening news only. Having worry or anxiety before we go to bed can interfere with the onset of sleep, which in turn can contribute to sleep deprivation and can trigger destructive sleep cycles. It’s also important to only go to bed when you’re feeling tired and to wake up at the same time every day.
  3. While we are spending so much time indoors, we are likely to be exposed to less light. Try to get out in the early morning for a walk and ensure you have lots of access to sunlight during the day. Similarly, keep the lights dim in the evening so that the brain can secrete melatonin which helps us to feel sleepy and nod off easily.
  4. If you do have trouble sleeping, avoid the use of sleeping pills for prolonged periods. Sleeping pills are only effective in the short-term, and are not advised for older people.
  5. Alcohol interferes with our sleep significantly and should be minimised. There are lots of well researched psychological strategies for sleep, which could be accessed with a psychologist via telehealth and some online options are also available.

This time could be a time to not only set new, healthy routines, but to find a break from risky habits. Researchers at the Brain and Mind Centre’s Gambling Treatment Research Clinic are still seeing people via tele and online appointments. Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury said seeking help at this time offers a unique opportunity to take action while venues are closed and offering a moment of pause from traditional avenues for addictive behaviours. 

The clinic has also launched a national online survey on betting during and following COVID-19 shutdowns to track the consequences of the pandemic and inform treatments.

Resources to check out

Prof Simon Lewis on COVID-19 and the impact within Parkinson's Disease and Dementia

Professor Simon Lewis produces a series of videos for patients and carers. In this installment he suggests ways to keep things as normal as possible during times of physical isolation: Accessing carer packages from support organisations, and drawing on others to find creative ways to continue brain training, physical exercise, social stimulation

View more content from Prof Lewis at his webpage.

Frontier COVID-19 Dementia Toolkit

Currently there are an estimated 460,000 people living with dementia in Australia and 1.6 million people involved in the care of someone living with dementia.

The Frontier Clinic developed a Dementia Toolkit to assist carers during Coronavirus shutdowns, and since its release in April, this highly accessible resource has been applied to day-to-day challenges of living with dementia. The advice, designed specifically for carers, includes coping strategies to support carers' needs.

Download the toolkit here (PDF, 852 kb)