It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a little more than a month since the coronavirus claimed its first life in the U.S.
For those of us fortunate enough to have a family or partner to spend
time with, this is a great chance for us to get closer.
However, approximately 33% of our elderly population, who are
particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, live alone. According to Joseph Coughlin and the MIT Age Lab, this number may eclipse the 50% mark over the next
The Centers for Disease Control urges that we all practice self-isolation and social distancing to protect ourselves. However, the same isolation that could save the elderly from the coronavirus could also hurt them. Prolonged isolation can be particularly injurious to the elderly.
There are things you can do to keep your aging loved ones, neighbors and friends from feeling and being isolated.
Be socially engaged with seniors
Check in regularly. If they are adept with technology, use video conferencing, send text messages or emails. Sometimes nothing beats picking up the phone. If you’re cooking, make a little extra and offer a dish to them: Put it in a disposable container, use a disinfectant wipe to sanitize the outside of the container and leave a thoughtful note.
Help with food and essentials
Lots of nonperishable items have disappeared from stores, especially hand sanitizers and toilet paper. Consider shopping for seniors while shopping for yourself or help them set up a revolving delivery from the grocery store.
Help with medications and healthcare appointments
Offer to pick up prescriptions or set up ongoing delivery. Many of our seniors have trouble remembering to take medications; you can ask the pharmacy to pre-package medications in blister packs with designations for morning and evening. You can also call to remind them to take their medications.
Telehealth offers a safe way to visit. If you are a family member or have power of attorney for medical decision-making, you could participate in these appointments. Should the older person urgently need in-person evaluation, phone ahead for them, report symptoms and ask for instructions as to next steps.
Engage the grandchildren
With schools closed, your children could help an older adult learn
something new about today’s technology, whether it be a laptop or a TV remote.
Or they might send emails to grandparents or elderly neighbors to chat about what they’re doing. Your children could use this time to record some family history.
Connect with trusted organizations
Volunteer remotely for local organizations serving older adults. Many of these agencies, stretched thin, may prefer financial support. Many provide meals for seniors, and most of those are providing home delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Consider helping out by purchasing pre-paid gas cards to support the drivers.
For dementia care partners
If you know someone caring for a person with dementia, reach out to them. Adult day care is now unavailable. The lack of services may increase their stress. Assist them by setting up phone or video conferencing with other dementia care partners to strategize on ways to cope.
While some of our aging loved ones are isolated in their own homes, they can move. Encourage them to get up and take a walk. Make playlists that resonate with them.
With the unfortunate passing of musical legend Bill Withers last week, I can’t help but feel that his hit “Lean on Me” is a great tribute for how we need to come together to help lift up our family, friends, neighbors and community. JN
Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.