Under normal circumstances, independent seniors are encouraged to get out and stay socially active as much as possible. But due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most communities have now released social distancing guidelines, and some have even banned nonessential travel and social gatherings altogether. These social restrictions are hard on everyone, especially elderly persons who live alone. To protect your loved one from getting lonely, anxious or depressed, use these tips to help them stay socially connected with others while social distancing.
Problems Caused by Social Isolation
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), roughly 30% of all seniors live alone. The NIA also points out that researchers have found a direct correlation between extended periods of social isolation and these health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Weakened immune system
- Cognitive decline, including dementia
- Anxiety and depression
- Shorter life span
Unfortunately, if these coronavirus-related social distancing policies continue, many aging in place seniors could be faced with the possibility of losing their freedom and independence for good.
How to Keep a Senior Connected with Others
As an informal caregiver, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your loved one is staying socially engaged even while sheltering in place. Here are some good ways to help your senior stay connected with others:
Making an old-fashioned phone call overtimes gets overlooked in today’s busy world, which you already know if you have kids who are Millennials. Sit down with your senior and compile a list of people they’d like to call. If they can’t find some of the phone numbers, search for them online and then watch your loved one smile as they catch up on old times. If hearing someone on the phone is a problem, you can always write some letters instead.
It’s called “social media” for a reason, so show your senior how to use online platforms like Facebook to reach out to other family members or long-lost friends. Once they feel comfortable using social media, help them find some Facebook groups to join with members that have similar interests and hobbies.
Show your senior how to use video chat services like Skype or Facebook Video Chat to stay in touch with others. Downloading the Marco Polo app is another way to send video messages that are then responded to when the other party has some free time. In general, video chatting is a safe way to enjoy some “face-to-face” personal contact without placing anyone at risk.
For someone with dementia, seeing old family photos is a great memory jogger. In general, most seniors enjoy talking about snapshots that captured warm memories from days gone by. So, pull down that dusty box from your senior’s closet and watch their face light up while fondly remembering all the good times they’ve had over the years!
If it’s presently allowed in your community, get outside in the sunshine for a few hours by taking a walk through the neighborhood, doing some yardwork or planting a garden. In addition to the social benefits of seeing others that they know, even from a distance, getting some exercise outdoors benefits seniors in so many ways.
Bring Your Dog
When you go over to do some chores at your senior’s house, bring your dog along for added company. In addition to the companionship aspect, a furry friend will keep your loved one entertained for hours while you’re tasking away in the next room!
Safe & Reliable In-Home Companionship for Seniors
Keeping an elderly loved one socially active during the COVID-19 outbreak can be hard when you’re too busy or live far away. At Family Services of Central Massachusetts, we offer reliable companionship services for seniors so they can continue aging comfortably in place right where they want to be. All our carefully screened aides have completed additional safety training on COVID-19, and stand ready to perform in-home duties like companionship care, personal care, dementia care and even 24-hour care.
Not only that, all our family trusted services can be individually combined into an affordable package based on your budget! To learn more about Family Services of Central Massachusetts today, or to schedule a FREE in-home initial assessment for a senior in our service area now, please visit: www.fscm.org.