With many governments recommending seniors over the age of 70 self-isolate due to the coronavirus, it's critical we pay extra attention to their physical, mental and emotional health.
As more and more restrictions get put in place, many of the support systems seniors rely on will become more limited. This is when our parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors need us most.
This may be a very confusing, stressful and emotional time for them, even more so than it is for us given some people's level of dependence. Be sympathetic, empathetic and patient.
Here are a few ways you can help:
1. Daily Check-In Calls
Make it a point to call your senior family members, friends and neighbors every day, maybe even once in the morning and once in the evening. This will have multiple benefits. First, it will give them a feeling of security and reduce some of the effects of their isolation. Second, it will give you an opportunity to see if they need your help with anything.
2. Food Security
If seniors are being isolated, they won't be able to shop for their own groceries. Some may be able to order from nearby supermarkets and have it delivered on their own. Others may require your help to have it ordered and delivered. Others may require you to help stock groceries in their pantry. For others, you may offer to bring over prepared meals. Perhaps you can make large batches and portion them in frozen containers, so they have a prepared serving for each meal of the week (that alone may reduce some anxiety).
Personal care and hygiene are always important. However, if seniors are asked to stay home, they may lack every day essential items to take care of themselves properly. Check-in and ask if they need soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, detergent, dish soap, diapers, lotion, etc...
If they have a private caregiver who helps them bathe, toilet, take out their garbage or does their laundry make sure those functions are still being provided. If not, see how you can help find alternatives or pitch in and help yourself.
Not to overstate it, but if seniors don't get their medications, it can put them in the hospital as quickly as the Corona virus can. Make sure your loved ones get their prescription medications filled if they run out. If they're used to picking up their medications from the pharmacy, see if they can have them delivered. If not, see if you can pick them up and deliver them yourself.
If a senior is used to having their caregiver administer or remind them of when to take their pills, and that caregiver is no longer available, perhaps you can fill the roll of medication reminder. Simply get the schedule and call before each dose, making sure each pill is taken at the right time. You can also supplement your calls with medication reminders as a back-up, if appropriate.
Senior isolation doesn't necessarily mean staying indoors. Older adults may still be able to leave their homes and go for walks, so long as they have the ability to maintain social distance between themselves and others. You might want to encourage your parents to get some fresh air and exercise. It will do good for both their minds and their bodies - especially if they're used to physical activity.
While isolating our seniors is critical, it's very important to remember that isolating them is in itself a danger that needs to be managed. You can do a lot to help mitigate the risks. Check-in on them multiple times a day. Make sure they're safe and healthy, Make sure they have food to eat, essentials to stay hygienic and their prescribed medications. Offer warmth, care and empathy to help them feel secure and calm.