How to Comfort, Care For and Engage with Seniors during Crisis
Older adults can be especially vulnerable during times of crisis. Seniors 65 years and older are considered at a higher risk for severe illness from the latest coronavirus (COVID-19). Concerns about the effects of the virus may lead to strong emotions, but there are good ways to help seniors not only cope with isolation but thrive.
The observance of social distancing goes against what physicians normally advocate for their older patients. The benefits of social engagement are powerful in reducing the poor health outcomes that can come with social isolation. But times have changed due to the risk of coronavirus infection, leaving physicians to look for ways to help older people balance between social distancing and social connecting.
Things You Can Do to Support the Seniors in Your Life
Medical experts join with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recommending some healthy ways to help seniors cope with the current crisis and remain engaged.
- Encourage them to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Create a buddy system. Make sure vulnerable and hard-to-reach people stay connected and informed in a positive way. This can be done through church, social groups or daily neighborhood email blasts.
- Offer to run errands like picking up groceries, medicine or other essentials. Just be sure to consolidate errands to limit everyone’s exposure to the virus. You can leave the goods at the door or be sure to sanitize before and after the delivery.
- Help set up grocery delivery or curbside pickup. This will promote your loved one’s independence while helping them maintain social distancing. Check into senior hours being offered by many grocery stores as well.
- Offer to clean and sanitize their living area. The CDC offers guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.
- Encourage healthy eating, regular exercise and plenty of sleep for a good state of mind and body.
- Call regularly to check in and chat. Volunteer to make phone calls to other seniors in the community right from your home.
- Help with the technology. Setting up a Facebook, Zoom, Skype, Twitter or other account and learning how to use it may seem daunting to an older adult. But these are online options that can promote communication with family and friends. Help provide a quick tutorial and watch your loved one enjoy the social interaction without health risks.
- Support interests or help a loved one find new ones. Being stuck inside is a good time to learn a new craft or skill. It’s also a good time to explore through online virtual tours of museums and famous sites.
- Take canine pals for a walk for those who can’t.
- Call their healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of daily activities for several days in a row.
Social distancing should not require any senior to be alone. If someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with emotions of sadness, depression or anxiety, good resources are available. These include:
- Texas Health Behavioral Health, 682-236-6023
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990