The coronavirus can be deadly to anyone who contracts it, regardless of their age. Recent studies have shown that elderly people, especially those living with pre-existing medical conditions, are more susceptible to severe complications from the pandemic.
This is because as we grow older, our immune system deteriorates, making it harder for us to fight diseases and infections.
While adhering to social distancing guidelines can reduce the risk of exposure for older adults, it can also socially isolate them from the people and places that engaged them before the pandemic. And this can hurt their mental health.
The problem with social distancing isolation
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, many elderly people were already feeling isolated from the rest of the world.
Now that social distancing has been enforced everywhere, physical, and social interactions have reduced to a bare minimum, making it harder for elderly people to partake in healthy, engaging activities.
But social distancing was never meant to discourage social interactions. Thanks to technology, there are ways elderly people can virtually interact with their friends and family, while still following public health advice.
Apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom make it so easy to stay connected digitally during the pandemic, and, what’s more, they’re easy to operate.
How can we support seniors during the pandemic?
Teach them how to protect themselves
Owing to several misconceptions about the coronavirus, older adults may not practice self-isolation as seriously as they should.
If you have elderly friends, family, or neighbors, take the liberty to inform them about certain safety measures they should ensure they always practice instead of the pandemic, whether or not their caregiver is around.
Encouraging your senior loved ones to practice the following safety measures will go a long way in keeping them safe:
- Always stay at home, and if you must go outside, it should be for an important reason
- Avoid crowded spaces and public transport
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, and sneezing or coughing into your elbow or tissue.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, cabinets, bathroom faucets, phones, and remote controls
- Eat healthily, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep
- Introduce them to engaging activities
It’s not enough to ask seniors to isolate themselves if you’re not going to recommend activities that will engage them and make them feel less lonely.
Fortunately, several online forums (book clubs, religious fellowships, etc) exist solely to foster interactions between people who share similar interests.
If you have an elderly person you care about, consider introducing them to some of these forums. You could also give them a tablet that’s loaded with books, or one that makes it easier to watch movies.
Donate palliatives to nursing homes (and similar organizations)
When we say that crowded spaces are a potential breeding ground for the coronavirus, skilled nursing homes are proactive about containing the spread.
Several factors—physical contact between staff and residents, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.—can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in a nursing home.
While you might not be able to solve the issue of physical contact, you can take it upon yourself to donate PPE, like masks and gowns, to nursing homes that need it urgently. And if you want to go the extra mile, you can donate food to food banks, and blood to blood banks.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to care for themselves, as well as for those close to them, especially if they are elderly people. We hope you’ll find the information in this article useful for maintaining not only social interactions but also the mental and physical health of elderly people around you.
Interesting related article: “What is Healthcare?”