The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way of living for nearly everyone in the country (and around the world). Currently, 95% of Americans are under some kind of stay-at-home order. The goal of these lockdowns is to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus while giving healthcare workers a chance to catch or keep up with those already infected.
Unfortunately, seniors have been identified as being more susceptible to Coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80% of the deaths caused by COVID-19 so far have been people over the age of 65.
It’s incredibly important that the elderly stay home and away from others who might carry the disease. But if someone you know and care about is older, they might have a hard time taking care of themselves or just being alone. Loneliness is already a big problem among the elderly, with over 40% of seniors admitting they experience loneliness. It can lead to severe health issues and even an increased mortality rate.
What can you do to make sure the elderly individuals in your life are being taken care of during social isolation while still making sure they stay safe? How can you stay connected with your parents and grandparents (and allow your kids to do so) without putting anyone in danger?
Finding Ways to Boost Social Fulfillment
As stated above, loneliness can be a big problem for older individuals, especially if they’re already struggling with other health concerns. Veterans can be especially susceptible to loneliness, even more so if they struggle with PTSD or other mental health conditions. Other seniors might need consistent help just to get through the day.
Over 1 million older adults in the country reside in assisted living facilities. These facilities, as well as nursing homes, can help to ensure that their elderly residents are cared for, especially if they have medical issues or are nearing an end-of-life stage. Many of these facilities are taking extra precautionary steps during the pandemic to protect their residents, including utilizing alternative methods of communication/visitation and not allowing visitors in-person except for emergency situations. According to the CDC, workers in care facilities also must take extra precautions during this time by utilizing personal protective equipment, monitoring their temperature daily, and practicing good hygiene. But even if your aging loved one is being taken care of physically, it’s important to boost their social engagement as much as possible during this time of social distancing.
Make a point to talk to your loved one every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Encourage them to engage in safe social activities, like taking an online class or staying connected with their friends. The more opportunities for socialization, the better. It just may require everyone to be a bit more creative.
Encouraging Healthy Choices
One of the worst things an older individual can do is to sit inside their house or room all day, especially during these times of uncertainty. Stress to your loved one(s) the importance of making healthy choices every day, from eating right to exercising every day. Encouraging the start of a new hobby (or picking up an old one) can also be beneficial for them, especially if it’s something they can do outdoors like:
- Metal detecting
- Walking the neighborhood
- Spring cleaning around the yard
These are things that can be done while still isolating from others, and they can boost both physical and mental health.
It’s also important that seniors continue to stay up-to-date with their medical care. The healthcare industry is changing as individuals are getting older, and nurses, doctors, and other healthcare staff members of the baby boomer generation are starting to retire. As a result, there’s a shortage of healthcare workers all over the country. It’s becoming an even more serious problem in light of this pandemic. Making sure your loved one keeps medical appointments, calls their doctor when necessary, and takes their prescribed medications is crucial for their health and immunity.
Thanks to technology, social isolation doesn’t have to feel so lonely. If your loved one is already tech-savvy, there are many ways to utilize the Internet to stay connected with others, including things like:
Netflix has even released a ‘watch with friends’ option that allows multiple people in different places to stream the same content at once while being able to ‘chat’ with one another throughout the movie or show.
People have even used some of these apps, like Zoom, to connect with family members during holiday celebrations like Passover and Easter. Using the Internet to stay connected, especially on holidays or other important events, can help the older people in your life to feel less distant. If the elderly individuals in your life don’t have the best Internet, now might be the time to have them invest in a better wireless Internet service with the strength to video chat. It may require them to get a new modem or router, but those can be ordered online and delivered directly to their homes.
Isolation can wreak havoc on anyone, but it’s especially dangerous for elderly individuals. Take advantage of the technology we have during these strange times to stay as connected as possible with the elderly in your life. By continuously checking on their physical and mental health, you can help them to feel less alone as we all get through this together.