In March 2020, stay-at-home orders were issued for the general population to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, nursing homes restricted visitation to only non-essential personnel. At first, we all had specific expectations that the health crisis would be temporary and our “normal” would shortly return. However, as the crisis continued to move forward and restrictions have relaxed, the elderly population is still under isolation orders due to the higher risk of becoming ill and a higher likelihood of not recovering.
Most of this population finds their social interaction through families, religious services, and circles of friends. For this reason, we must find alternative ways to interact. Social isolation can trigger mental health problems such as depression, loss of motivation, poor appetite, and becoming withdrawn. And in some cases, these declines can often be difficult to reverse.
Isolation Does Not Have to Mean You Are Alone
This is the time to become creative and to let them know that they are loved, important, and needed. Here are some tips to show your support:
Don’t overload on the news. Take time to relax and take up hobbies that both you and your loved ones can enjoy.
Try to limit appeasing your loved ones by saying “It will be ok” or “This will too pass”. This is difficult time for all and even though you cannot see them in person, you can still be with them.
If they don’t already have one, provide them with a video-capable device to set up FaceTime, Zoom or other type of video communication. Use it regularly to stay connected and tell them they are welcome to call you whenever they need.
Set up live stream religious services, entertainment services, or lectures that interest them.
Don’t just talk during the live stream sessions. Sing, play a game, read a book, this is a time to be creative. Help them feel that they are part of an activity.
Try to encourage them to increase outside activity if they are able to.
Most importantly, listen to their concerns. Be cognizant of their feelings and be there when and how you can.