Supporting Your Senior Loved One from a Distance during COVID-19

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At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of social distancing has been taken to heart. Most everyone is washing their hands, keeping their distance and only going out when necessary. But for those considered high-risk of more severe illness such as seniors and/or those with chronic health conditions, experts say to stay home and away from other people altogether. While it’s unimaginable that keeping our senior loved ones safe means distancing ourselves from them; that’s our new reality. However, there are still ways to support them and show your loved one how much you care.

The Struggle of Social Distancing

By definition, social distancing is a technique used to prevent the spread of pandemic disease by physically distancing yourself from others. Although logistically this can prove to be a challenge, the real struggle is an emotional one. Staying apart from your loved one can leave you feeling guilty and your loved one feeling isolated at a time when senior isolation is a growing concern with serious health risks all on its own. The bright spot is that the COVID-19 shouldn’t last forever and the lessons we learn during this time of social distancing can help us stay better connected in the future, whether near or far.

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How You Can Help Senior Loved Ones

Let’s put that thought into action and keep in mind that some of the best tools at our disposal are creativity, technology and, as always, our time.

If your loved one is at home:

  • Arrange deliveries for food, supplies and prescriptions. Most grocery stores and many pharmacies are now offering delivery and/or shipping as well. Also check delivery options at local restaurants and don’t forget services such as Door Dash and Uber Eats. As a last resort, you can always shop in-store for your loved one and drop supplies off without coming in contact.
  • Check in regularly with video conferencing tools such as Skype and FaceTime. It may not be quite the same as being in-person, but you can still see each other and connect. But make sure you don’t just focus on COVID-19 updates. Keep them informed, listen and make sure they’re protecting themselves, but make time to chat about the grandkids or other more light-hearted topics.
  • Have some fun by setting up a family Facebook group and/or use Facebook Live. Along the same lines of what we said above, keep these off the topic of the pandemic and instead share stories, play games like ‘Have You Ever,’ or ’20 Questions’, do a watch party of your favorite shows and have dinner together. It’s a great way to bond and have a laugh together while not actually together.
  • Encourage telemedicine rather than cancelling as seniors often have a number of regular doctor’s appointments that are important to their wellbeing. They’d simply use a website link or an app to connect with the doctor remotely over a secure video chat. Whether they have Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance, look in to whether their coverage has been expanded during this time. 
  • Keep fear at bay by making sure they are getting COVID-19 information from reputable sources such as the CDC and WHO. Misinformation is rampant right now as are fear mongering and scams which can not only be costly, but some advice can be harmful. Let your loved one know you’re always there should they have any questions, fears or concerns.
  • Send your love with cards and care packages with puzzles, books and art supplies; anything that would bring a smile to their face (have them sanitize items they receive and wash hands after). You could each do scrapbooking pages about your experiences during this time that could be put together once you’re able to be back together again. Or keep a journal to share.

If your loved one is in senior living you can apply many of the same tips from above, however our communities are also offering these additional resources:

  • A daily webinar hosted on Facebook Live in which we update residents and families on our COVID-19 response as well as take and answer questions from attendees. These are hosted by executive directors at each of our communities and you can either participate live or watch the recorded session at your convenience. 
  • Creative activities help to prevent isolation and keep our residents engaged while practicing social distancing. For example virtual field trips have replaced our regularly scheduled outings for our residents. This opens up even more options for enrichment as we’re not limited to the local area; we can ‘visit’ anywhere in the world!
  • Extra precautions such as checking residents’ and team members’ temperatures daily; frequent disinfecting of commonly touched environmental surfaces to decrease environmental contamination; encouraging hand-washing for at least 20 seconds and standard precautions, such as wearing masks, gloves and gowns as situations warrant their use.

To learn more about the advantages of senior living during this challenging time, contact a community near you today!