Here are some different ways to help seniors facing social isolation due to COVID-19 pandemic. Use these tips to help our elderly loved ones ease loneliness and social isolation during this time of the pandemic.
To avoid the coronavirus, the government is encouraging every citizen, particularly the elderly, to stay home and practice social distancing to improve public health.
The elderly population, people who are 65 years and older, are at higher risk of developing severe illnesses due to COVID-19. Social distancing has been the critical measure to limit the spread of the virus within this age group.
As social distancing becomes necessary, seniors become more isolated than usual, resulting in loneliness and anxiety. They feel disconnected, especially those living on their own, not having support from relatives and friends.
Our senior population needs social connections, and they need it now more than ever!
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), seniors facing social isolation due to COVID-19 are linked to a higher risk of developing different health problems, including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, and even death. These health concerns can be avoided or reduced with proactive steps.
There are different ways to help seniors facing social isolation due to the COVID-19 guide will teach you some creative strategies to help our senior community stay connected and prevent loneliness during the pandemic.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF SOCIAL ISOLATION IN SENIORS
Social isolation in the senior community is a serious public health risk affecting many people in the U.S. during this pandemic.
While this experience happens over a lifetime, 50% of seniors who are at risk of social isolation are more vulnerable to develop dementia and other serious medical problems.
Seniors facing social isolation due to COVID-19 are more vulnerable for a number of reasons.
Most seniors have chronic conditions that younger people do not have. Senior’s aging immune system makes it harder to fight viruses, infections, and diseases making recoveries slower and more complicated.
Loneliness is associated with decreased resistance to infection, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia. Every individual will experience loneliness at some point in life, but research finds that older people are more vulnerable to experience loneliness and social isolation.
Social isolation in the elderly is associated with a reduction in health status and decrease quality of life.
Other factors for loneliness and social isolation in the senior community include decreased mobility and income, isolation from family, loss of loved ones, inter-generational living, and less cohesive communities.
Conversely, the study shows that seniors who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose tend to live longer. Different activities help maintain their well-being and improve their cognitive functions.
WAYS TO HELP SENIORS FACING SOCIAL ISOLATION DUE TO COVID-19
We can help reduce the social isolation of our senior adults by communicating and reaching out. Let’s engage our family, friends, and neighbors to collaborate in making an action plan.
1. Get your seniors contact information
Gather your elderly family member’s or neighbors’ phone number, email address, and mailing address. Gathering contact information makes it easy to stay in touch regularly, while social distancing is encouraged by the government. You can contact the people you care about by phone, email, or even write letters. Set up regular times to call and stay in touch while you’re stuck at home.
2. Help with social support
Check-in with your older relative and neighbors. Call them, send them a text, email, or leave a note on their front door. Let them know you are thinking about them during this pandemic. Ask if they need anything; maybe they need groceries or medicines. If you’re cooking, make an extra and bring it to them.
3. Provide up-to-date communication equipment
Give our seniors up-to-date communication equipment like smartphones, tablets, or laptops and teach them how to use it. Install games and apps for education and entertainment designed for older adults. Teach them how to make calls and video calls using electronic devices.
4. Schedule a weekly video call
A video call is the next best thing if you can’t be there in person. Communication apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp can make you feel together even you’re miles away. Set a time each week for a video call to communicate with each other. Having a scheduled time will let our seniors have something to plan for and look forward to.
You can let your kids sing a song or tell stories to their grandparents. You can also play virtual board games together to keep the family connection alive. Research shows that interacting through technology reduces loneliness and isolation in older adults.
5. Help seniors get organized
Offer to help your elder loved ones put together a list of contact information they can use during the pandemic. This include:
- Persons to call if they are ill
- Emergency contact persons such as family, friends, and neighbors
- Local organizations such as local public health departments
- Nearby food, grocery, pharmacy delivery services
- Their doctor and health insurance company
6. Help with food and essentials
Help our seniors stock up enough food and other supplies that will last for several weeks. It is hard for our seniors and the elderly to get to the store. Shop for them while doing your shopping or set up a delivery from the grocery store.
Send them a care package of things they will need like over-the-counter medicines for fever, cough, flu, and other symptoms. Health and medical supplies such as toilet paper, disinfecting cleaning sprays and wipes, and oxygen if needed.
7. Help with medications
Also, make sure our seniors have at least a 30-day supply of their prescription medications on hand. Help them reorder from the drugstore when they run low on supply. You can also pick the medicine for them if you live close by.
Some elderly folks have trouble remembering to take medications on time. Ask the drugstore to pre-package the medications in the blister pack for morning and evening. You can also call or text them to remind them to take medications.
8. Help seniors with health care appointments
Seniors still need to manage chronic illnesses while isolating at home. Most health clinics now offer telemedicine or check-ups over the phone or video conference appointments. If you have a power of attorney for medical decision-making, you could schedule appointments for your elderly loved ones.
If your loved one needs an in-person evaluation, call the clinic for them, report symptoms, and ask for instructions on what to do next.
9. Let your relatives and neighbors help
Talk to relatives and neighbors to help your elderly loved one face challenges during this time of isolation. If you live miles away, ask your relatives and your elderly loved one’s neighbor to check on them periodically.
10. Engage the grandchildren
Since schools are closed, grandchildren could help their grandparents learn something new about technology. They could send emails or video call their grandparents or elderly neighbor to check on them. They can ask the elders to participate in an online class or virtual museum tours.
Children could also use this time to let grandparents tell them family history and record it. They can also make a playlist of their grandparent’s favorite music. Music is a powerful way that gives positive emotions to the elderly.
11. Watch a movie together
You can still watch movies with your senior loved one or neighbor. Use streaming services like Metastream or Netflix Party. These streaming services let you chat with your loved one while you watch your favorite movies online.
12. Check with your loved ones in a long-term care facility
Ask the staff in the nursing home or assisted living facility to help you video call your loved one. You can also email pictures or letters and ask the staff to print out and give to your loved one.
13. Write Letters
Letter writing is an art that neglected today because everyone is using technology. Still, this old-fashioned way of communication is a heartfelt way to stay connected, especially to our older citizens. Express yourself and tell your loved one’s things that you can’t easily express in person.
14. Help them go outside for a walk in the park
A stay-at-home order doesn’t mean you need to stay at home the whole time. Instead of visiting your older family member or neighbor at home, arrange to talk outside at a nearby park. Just maintain physical distancing when you go out and wear a mask to stay safe.
It’s vital for elderly people to stay active rather than isolated in their homes. A long period of inactivity can make them weak.
15. Help them exercise
You don’t necessarily need a gym or special equipment to exercise. Exercise can be standing up, stretching the legs, or walking across the room. It doesn’t have to be rigorous. National Institute on Aging offers workout routines for the elderly on YouTube. Guide them in performing these exercises.
16. Get outside
Physical distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay inside the whole time. Encourage them to take a walk and go outside the home. You can also sit with them on the porch and wave to your neighbors. If they have a garden, this is the perfect time to help clean the weeds and plant seeds.
CALL THESE HOTLINES IF YOU NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO
Your doctor can assess your risk for social isolation and loneliness. Here’s a list of national organization you can call for help:
AAA is a network of more than 620 organizations across the U.S. that provides information and assistance to the elderly. They have many programs on meals and nutrition. They provide counseling, caregiver support, and more. They also deliver meals or group meals to your home. They also offer Tai Chi classes and diabetes self-management. Check their website to find your nearest AAA.
AAARP provides information and education to seniors to help improve quality of life. They have a nationwide network of local chapters that help build social connectedness during this time of the pandemic.
A free national service that helps the elderly find local resources for caregiving services, financial support, and transportation. The Eldercare location connects the elderly and caregivers with trustworthy local support resources. Access their website if you need help with home health care, meals, caregiving needs training or transportation.
NCOA is a national leader that helps people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. They work with the government, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to provide community programs and services for the elderly. You can find senior programs that assist with healthy aging and financial security. Their Aging Master Program increases social connectedness and healthy eating habits.
The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7 national hotline providing immediate crisis counseling to older people experiencing emotional distress. Call SAMHSA’s helpline is you feel overwhelmed, distressed, or anxious. They help improve the qualify of treatment and services to reduce illness, death, disability resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.
IOA supports individuals who find connecting within the community during the pandemic challenging. Their friendship line is the only accredited crisis line for people 60 years and older. They are currently making outreach calls to the lonely, depressed, isolated older adults. Call them. They have trained volunteers that will listen and offer a friendly conversation with depressed older adults.