Turning the care of a loved one over to strangers can be a scary step. However, there is much you can do to ensure the continued safety and well-being of your loved one, even if you have to make the difficult choice to place them in a nursing home.
Just because your parents or other loved ones require more care than you are able to provide on a daily basis, doesn’t mean they don’t need you. You still have a role to play as their primary caregiver and advocate, even if you can’t be there during this pandemic.
1. Stay in Touch
During a time of social distancing, seniors and folks aging in the home may feel more isolated and lonely without their regular visitors and activities. With church services and community events put on hold, they’re likely not socializing much. That’s why now, more than ever, it’s important to stay in touch with our senior friends and family.
2. Talk Often
Whether it’s through phone calls, text, video chats, or social media, keep in touch with seniors in your community. Call your grandparents, parents, and neighbors regularly to chat and keep them company.
3. Old School Communication
Send letters, notes, drawings, and gifts to the seniors in your life to brighten up their day. Keepsakes like handwritten letters and old pictures will boost their spirits. And don’t hesitate to enlist your kids and friends to join you. Just make sure to wash your hands before writing your letters and sending them off.
4. Share Happy Memories
With the world on hold, it can be easy to dwell on the negative. While talking to your senior family member, neighbor, or friend, ask them to tell stories about their career or family. Share recipes and jokes to keep the mood lighthearted. We may be stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy each other’s company.
For Loved Ones in Nursing Homes
Older adults in nursing homes are also at risk of isolation and illness. If you know someone in a nursing home, visit them when you can in conjunction with the facility’s Covid-19 safety guidelines. Wash your hands before arriving and leaving the facility, and avoid going if you’re sick.
If it’s safe to visit, help clean up their space and bring supplies, gifts, or flowers to brighten up their area. Ask facility staff about how your loved one is coping during this period of isolation and ask what else you might be able to do to help.
5. Drop off Supplies
For people aging at home, it can be hard to get the supplies they need to stay healthy and engaged. Leaving your senior friends and family care packages is a great way to brighten their day and get them the items they need. Just be sure to keep a safe distance to avoid getting sick or infecting them.
Food and Medicine
For most, grocery and delivery services work well, but rural areas may not have the same options. Shopping for supplies and delivering food can be a huge help to those who need it.
Anything from bringing takeout meals to medicine can be helpful for seniors stuck at home. Be sure any food you bring is healthy and wash your hands before handling anything.
If you want to volunteer, organizations like Meals On Wheels are taking helpers. Your local food bank will also be taking donations during the pandemic.
6. Puzzles, Games and Entertainment
Phones, tablets, and laptops can only go so far. Drop off puzzles, coloring books, magazines, or craft supplies to seniors in your area. Anything that helps time go by faster and makes the isolation a little easier could do a lot for their mental and physical health.
7. Encourage Healthy Activities
Without errands to run or events to attend, social distancing makes staying active harder than normal for everyone. Thankfully, there are ways seniors can stay healthy and active during a pandemic.
8. Online Workout Videos
Walking in the park, going to the gym, and other physical activities may be restricted, but older adults can still find ways to get the blood pumping. Youtube offers plenty of free workouts for seniors, many of which can be done sitting in a chair. So drop a link in their inbox.
Just be careful of strenuous exercise if you or your senior friends have respiratory problems or showing COVID-19 symptoms. It’s best to consult a doctor before starting any kind of exercise regimen.
9. Virtual Doctors Visits
Virtual doctor visits are a great option for seniors stuck at home. There’s no need to leave the house for regular checkups and consultations (now covered by Medicare). For conditions like diabetes, this allows seniors to see their doctors without risking coming in contact with coronavirus. Plus, no stuffy waiting room!
Senior safety devices like medication dispensers, medical alert systems, and safety equipment are also helpful for any older adult living alone or away from family.
How Coronavirus Affects Seniors FAQ
1. How dangerous is coronavirus for seniors?
Older adults, especially those with respiratory issues and diabetes are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than other groups. Symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, and coughing are likely to show up faster for those with existing health issues. Because mortality rates are so much higher for adults over 80, the best way to help out is by self isolating and checking on them from a distance.
2. How can I help older friends and relatives who live far away?
Stay in contact with them, know who’s visiting them or if they’re alone, and stay in touch. Technology like medical alert systems or indoor cameras keep an eye on your loved ones and get them help when they need it.
3. Is there anywhere I can volunteer or donate?
Services will vary based on where you (and your senior friends) live. We’ve found opportunities through Meals on Wheels to deliver food to seniors. Check with your local food bank or pantry for chances volunteer or donate to relief organizations that help people affected by the pandemic.
4. How do I care for someone who is sick?
If you or someone you care for fall ill with COVID-19, you’ll need to take some precautions. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that you and the person you’re caring for should wear a protective mask to avoid spreading the virus through coughing and sneezing. Wash your hands frequently before and after caring for them and avoid touching your face or hard surfaces.
Currently healthcare providers are stretched, so be sure to call ahead before taking anyone to the hospital. That said, it is important that you consult a medical professional about proper care and procedures if you or a loved one are sick.
5. What should I do if I get sick?
Most importantly, stay home and get in touch with your doctor. It’s important to keep a safe distance from other people in your home. Wear a face mask to avoid spreading germs, avoid touching your face, and practice good hygiene like washing your hands.