Give InKind is grateful for the expertise of Allison Gould, clinical social worker.
As hospitals and nursing homes change visitor protocols as a result of the evolving Coronavirus pandemic, families are left to consider how they can best support their loved ones if they are not allowed to visit in person.
In considering the impact of quarantine on our older citizens we first do well to consider that the lifestyles of those 60 and over, range wildly depending upon their actual age and also medical concerns. Many are living full and independent lives. Others are living in assisted living facilities or are largely isolated at home. Regardless of the circumstances, the following suggestions may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and despair during these difficult days.
According to Allison Gould, a clinical social worker with an expertise in caring for those over 65 and their family caregivers, protecting against social isolation is a real concern. She reminds us that those who choose to follow the latest government recommendations and stay home as a precaution benefit from the efforts of loved ones to scaffold their social interconnectedness. In particular, she emphasizes that staying in touch in specific and/or scheduled ways lifts the spirits like little else. She suggests that when support for someone in quarantine is being structured that others in their circle of family and friends be invited to participate in a shared and set schedule.
“Overcome today’s tendency to view phone calls as old-fashioned. Revert to a time where the most common way to connect was to reach out and make a call. Make sure to call when you have enough time to keep the person company and spend time on the phone really using voice-to-voice phone technology.”
– Allison Gould
Gould also underscores that many older citizens use and enjoy video technology such as Skype and FaceTime. These two platforms, in particular, allow grandparents to see their children and their grandchildren. They even allow a grandchild to demonstrate a dance routine or show a picture they have drawn, or a project they have built (note that for someone with dementia, these platforms are not always ideal because they can cause confusion and upset and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis).
When a person offering support is on the phone with the older citizen, making sure to keep tabs on the effects of social isolation is also very important. Listen for signs of depression or anxiety. While using the phone and video technology to connect, be sure to ask how a loved one is managing their time alone. Social distancing is a valuable tool in slowing the spread of the pandemic. Enabling people to stay home without becoming isolated is exactly the kind of large-scale community buy-in which underscores the fact that give-and-take is necessary across the board.
When on the phone/chat with the person you love:
- Show pictures, dance routines, and things that kids have done since you last spoke.
- Return to the written word. Recruit family and friends — including children — to send letters and postcards to be enjoyed by the recipient. Or encourage them to journal or catch up on a book they’ve been meaning to read.
- Support local businesses by sending a care package from a local store to the person you love to lift their spirits (and a local economy).
Also, make sure to ask about how your loved one is spending time and whether they have the necessities. Touch base on:
- Medications. Make sure that your loved one has all the medication they need. This includes prescription medication and over the counter medication. Offer to arrange delivery of pharmaceuticals. Make sure that those on fixed incomes have enough money to buy necessary items in advance.
- Ask whether your loved one is getting enough exercise. Help them to access exercise that they can safely do from home. Remember, exercise routines should be approved by a doctor before starting. That said, there are many online exercise classes for all levels – from gentle yoga on up. Or, help them set a goal/challenge with their stepcounter – march in place and such. Help them be creative about staying safely active as this will help both physically and emotionally.
- See how they are managing time. Encourage your loved one to see this as a time to undertake some tasks that lie somewhere between nostalgia and necessary. That shoebox full of old photos needs sorting and organizing. Piles of old cards and letters can be reread.
- Music always soothes the soul. Make sure that your loved one has a subscription to Spotify – there, they can listen to any music they wish. Introduce your loved one to podcasts they might enjoy.
- Avoid too much news. Make sure that there is access to streaming platforms such as Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. It’s best to be able to filter out news and return to favorite movies and shows.
- Elevate their tech-game. Make sure that if they want to make use of an app that is useful, that they know how to download and use the app. This is where a tech-savvy grandchild can tutor on Skype.
Remind your loved one that quarantine is a temporary interruption to their otherwise busy and engaged life. Remind them that having extra time is an excellent opportunity not just to get projects done but also to slow down and cultivate mindfulness. Challenge them: instead of drinking coffee while ticking several to-dos off a chore list, take the time to sit down with your mug and simply enjoy the experience of drinking your coffee. Feel the warm mug in your hands, take in the aroma, enjoy each sip. In these trying times, these are the gifts you can find to bring lightness and simple joy to each day.
“Combatting negative thinking and moving into positive thinking means community buy-in for things like social distancing where we help each other and learn to identify creative ways to stay engaged during the temporary homestay.”
– Allison Gould
Most importantly, remind yourself that the eldest amongst us have been through more personal and world crises than the rest of us and that most of them are strong and resilient. Support them, but believe in their ability to persevere and overcome. Be inspired at a time when resolve benefits us all.
If you or someone you know finds themself in a quarantined or no-visitation situation, creating a Give InKind page is a great way to continue to show care and support from afar. You can schedule regular phone calls with friends and family members through a care calendar, facilitate sending care packages, food, and other necessities, and so much more.
Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.