Helping Seniors Battle the Unspoken COVID-19 Toll: Loneliness

Isolation leads to loneliness in seniors.

Social distancing is a new term we have all become familiar with over the past several weeks. An essential step in reducing transmission of the coronavirus, it’s important to note that distancing also can cause social isolation and loneliness. Although this can affect anyone, regardless of age, the elderly are particularly vulnerable at this time.

What exactly is loneliness? We have all experienced loneliness at some time, but a more refined understanding can help us help our loved ones.  While social isolation is simply not being around other people, loneliness is a subjective feeling – a sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people. In other words, social isolation may lead to feelings of loneliness. Studies have linked these persistent feelings to higher risks of conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even death.

How to Help

Experts offer guidance on how we can help our elderly loved ones combat feelings of loneliness and avoid their negative mental and physical health consequences.

Some tips:

  • Help with the technology for video chats and social media.
  • Set up regular phone calls or video chats on a daily or weekly routine.
  • Explore online learning opportunities, especially those designed especially for seniors.
  • Help your elderly loved ones to change their expectations for the time being, and understand that this situation is temporary.

Resources: ABC News, The unspoken COVID-19 toll on the elderly: Loneliness, April 14, 2020.

 

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Helping Your Elderly Parents during the Pandemic

Our elderly parents are especially vulnerable during the coronavirus, but there are ways to safely help them right now.

Considerable’s recent article entitled “4 things you can do for your aging parents during the coronavirus pandemic” reports that 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. related to COVID-19 have been in adults 65 years old and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Helping our elderly parents during the pandemic has become a major concerns for many people.  If your parents are in one of the vulnerable categories, here are four things you can do right now to help them.

  1. Shop or help them place orders online. With many cities experiencing a shopping frenzy in response to the coronavirus, personal care and household items have quickly disappeared from stores. You can help your parents by allowing them to stay home and going to the store for them and dropping off groceries on their door. You can also place online orders that can be delivered to their home.  Some stores have also set aside times for elder customers to shop to avoid them coming at peak times.
  2. Contact them regularly. The CDC says the coronavirus is believed to spread primarily from person-to-person contact, particularly between people who are closer than six feet from each other. Therefore, you have likely already been separating yourself from your family members outside of your home, including your parents. To avoid possibly exposing your parents, use Skype, FaceTime, or call them on the phone. Stay in close communication to keep their spirits up and check on how they’re feeling. This can help you to verify their mental and physical health, as the days of social distancing add up. You can set up a schedule with specific times you’ll call, so they have something to look forward to throughout the day.
  3. Watch for scams. We’re already hearing about the con artists coming out of the woodwork to prey on the elderly—and all of us in this medical and financial crisis.  See here for a fuller discussion.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/coronavirus-scams-are-surfacing/  Speak to your parents about these scams, so they can protect themselves. The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines for avoiding scams, including the following:
  • Hang up on robocalls and don’t press any numbers.
  • Verify your sellers because many online sellers may say they have in-demand products in stock, when they actually don’t.
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
  • Research before making donations, and if asked for donations by cash, gift card, or wiring money, pass!
  1. Keep ‘em busy. Seniors have unique challenges when they stay at home. The inactivity that can be linked to being confined in the home can cause declines in physical health and in physical abilities. The elderly are also at greater risk of developing depression in social isolation, and their elevated risk for bad outcomes from this virus can cause higher levels of anxiety and lead to sleep difficulties and other health issues. Encourage your parents to read, play a board game, do a puzzle, or take a walk, provided that they’re keeping distance from others. Many religious groups have also transitioned their services online, and there are plenty of movies and TV shows on-demand for home viewing.

Most significantly, make certain that your parents are taking the pandemic seriously and emphasize the importance of social distancing.  The coronavirus has been hard on everyone, but following these suggestions can help your elderly parents during the pandemic.

Reference:  Considerable (April 8, 2020) “4 things you can do for your aging parents during the coronavirus pandemic”

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How Nursing Homes Can Do Better at Protecting Residents from COVID19

It’s no secret that nursing homes across the country have been hard-hit in this pandemic and residents and their families are rightly concerned about safety.

Nursing homes are hard hit by the coronavirus.
Nursing homes are hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Here are two developments you will want to watch.

  1. Commission on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on April 30 announced a new independent commission, Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the nursing home response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Commission will provide independent recommendations and report to CMS to help inform immediate and future responses to COVID-19 in nursing homes.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidelines for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in regard to preparing for COVID-19. You can review the guidelines and additional resources on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/long-term-care.html. You also can watch a 30-minute pre-recorded CDC webinar, Preparing Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities for COVID-19 on YouTube.

Resources: CMS.gov, CMS Announces Independent Commission to Address Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes, April 30, 2020; NPR, Trump Announces Panel to Look at Nursing Home Responses to Coronavirus Outbreak, April 30, 2020; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preparing for COVID-19: Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes

 

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