We’ve learned much over the years about the emotional, social and mental needs of seniors. If not cared for properly, older adults are prone to feeling neglected and can even suffer from an epidemic of loneliness. With the recent threat of COVID-19 keeping many of our seniors away from others and out of the social activities they usually enjoy, how can caregivers and loved ones overcome social distancing rules to show their family and friends they still care? There are still things you can do to keep the connection alive, even when physically apart.
1. Write a letter
Many seniors are delighted by getting traditional mail. Whether you draft a handwritten note on your favorite stationery, or you print out a list of updates from your family, a physical piece of communication can help older loved ones feel grounded in this uncertain time.
Even if you don’t personally know a senior to communicate with, consider writing a letter to your local Five Star Senior Living community. With extra safety precautions in place, seniors physically separated from their family members and usual outings might need extra encouragement. Check out a location near you and write a letter of support – in situations like these, it’s less important what the message says than that you sent it at all. You can remind seniors that they are in your thoughts, tell them a funny anecdote from your life, or even give movie and TV recommendations. Feeling less alone is often as simple as knowing that someone out there – even a stranger – acknowledges you and wishes you well.
Hearing a friendly voice can boost moods for those in the throes of loneliness, and even a quick five-minute chat may be the difference for many seniors. When talking to your loved one, consider these tips:DO share fun or interesting updates in your own lifeDON’T share distressing news that your loved one won’t be able to assist with or controlDO ask questions about what the senior is doing to stay busy or take care of themselvesDON’T relay news updates that aren’t relevant to the senior or could cause them added stressDO take time to listen; don’t interruptDON’T make promises you can’t keep, such as visiting by a certain date
Your loved one may use the time to complain, vent their frustration or express fear. Remember that this may be the only time they have to communicate their uncertainty. Try to be a good listener, and don’t dismiss their concerns or tell them that they are overreacting.
3. Video conference
Did you think Facetime, Skype and videoconferencing were just for young people? Think again. Research shows that smartphone adoption is growing quickly among seniors, with 59% of 65- to 69-year-olds owning a smart device. Even the oldest surveyed group uses them; those over 75 range in use from 17 to 31%.
This means it’s highly likely that your loved one owns and uses a smart device regularly. Why don’t you use it to give them a group family chat? Have everyone call in at a certain time, using easy apps like Facebook’s Facetime or Skype for iPhone or Android. These tools are simple enough for even novice phone users to enjoy; just be sure that you’re the one doing the scheduling and calling so all your senior has to do is click the “accept” button.
4. Stay at home
Though recommendations can vary by location, federal social distancing guidelines have been extended through April 30. They call for people to avoid social gatherings and stay at home – especially if sick, even with mild symptoms. Though this is currently the best way to avoid the virus (since at the time of this writing there is no vaccine), it is also the best way to prevent the spread of it. Seniors – or those age 65+ – are regarded as a vulnerable community, and one way to show you care for them is by helping to slow the spread of the pandemic in any way you can. If you’re able, stay at home.
If you are concerned about a senior you love during the pandemic, the experts at Five Star Senior Living are always available to provide guidance and options.