Feelings of isolation among senior adults can present any time, but the coronavirus pandemic has shut off many additional sources of human contact for them, making it difficult to avoid feeling isolated.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the toll of isolation on seniors includes such problems as cognitive decline, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
During the pandemic, physical contact between senior loved ones and younger family members presents the risk of infecting the senior with the virus, which cause far more serious consequences for them
What are some ways to stay involved in the life of your senior loved one without endangering them?
Increase the frequency of the calls you place to your senior loved one. Set up a daily schedule for the calls to give them something to look forward to. Also, have your children call as well.
When you call, ask how they are feeling and if they need anything. Share how you are coping with the situation and tell them you love them. Even a few minutes of conversation can be uplifting for your senior.
These days, almost anything can be ordered online and shipped to a home. If your senior finds the process too challenging, you can order groceries and other supplies to be delivered to their home. Just ask them to keep a list of what they need and let them know when to expect the arrival.
If you live nearby and take proper protective precautions, you could shop for them and leave the supplies on their doorstep. Knock on the door, step back and talk to them or wave through a window.
Please remember to wear gloves and disinfect the packages and other items you deliver.
Deliveries for Fun
Other things you could deliver to your senior loved one’s doorstep could include:
- Movie videos
- Arts and crafts supplies
- Indoor plants and flowers
- Handwritten notes of love
- The faces of their grandchildren outside their window
And you don’t have to have something to deliver, just show up to wave and say, “I love you.”
Encourage Them to Maintain Their Health
The motivation to exercise may diminish in seniors who feel isolated. Encourage him or her to keep moving by asking them what they are doing physically for their health, even if it is just walking around the house for few minutes each day. If they have an established exercise routine, remind them to keep following it. However, don’t encourage a new exercise regimen unless their physician has been consulted.
Also, seniors may neglect proper nutrition. Monitor what kind of groceries they are consuming. While stocking up on groceries designed for the long-term, make sure not to neglect fresh produce.
Ask if they have a sufficient supply of their medications and if they are taking them correctly. (They may not tell you unless you ask because they don’t want you to worry.) Volunteer to make trips to the pharmacy or set up for the home delivery of medications that pharmacies now provide.
Encourage Them to Connect with Others
Self-help Virtual Senior Centers (VSC) enable people to connect with other older adults online. Participants learn to use Skype (a voice and video connection between two or more people) and email, as well as talk with peers in virtual classes.
The National Institute on Aging provides a 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line (800-971-0016). The line is for people aged 60 and older, and adults living with disabilities, and is “both a crisis intervention hotline and warmline for non-emergency emotional support calls.”
Take the Time to Learn More About Them
As you spend additional time with your loved one, try to learn more about them. For example, ask them about their memories of growing up. What was the biggest surprise in their life, their first job, life lessons they have learned, what has been the most rewarding part of their life, and what makes them happy?
The time you spend physically apart from your senior loved one can actually be an opportunity to grow closer to them.
For more help and advice around keeping your loved ones active and their spirits high, check out the Caregiver Tips section of our blog.