Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the term “social distancing” has become a part of our daily language. However, it’s so important to keep in mind that this is better described as “physical distancing” as social connection remains imperative, now more than ever.
Especially for our senior population, feeling social distant is a constant battle. As they are among the key population most likely to need serious medical care as a result of contracting COVID-19, this has led to less and less physical interaction from friends and loved ones. Even those who have professional care, whether this is in-home or in an outside care facility, physical contact has decreased as caregivers and medical professionals work to “flatten the curve.”
What we hope to share in this article are tips and solutions for maintaining a safe physical distance from our aging loved ones, at least until no new cases of COVID-19 have emerged, while still staying connected socially to ensure loneliness is kept at bay.
- Utilize technology.
Everyone appreciates a phone call or text to check in, but don’t undervalue the need to see each other’s faces. It changes everything! You will feel so much more connected to your loved when one when you use Zoom, Face Time, Google Hangouts, Facebook’s Messenger App. Set a weekly (or even more frequently) time to connect and make it a priority.
- Check in often.
We have ample tools to stay connected, but they’re not doing much good if we don’t make it a point to use them often. Commit to hearing from your loved one, ideally daily if you can. This ensures they never go more than 24 hours without a check-in. Hearing back from them daily will also give you peace of mind that all is well.
- Become pen pals.
Now more than ever, people really appreciate receiving a good old-fashioned letter in the mail. Sure, it takes added effort than a phone all or text, and that’s the point. Become pen pals with a senior and you two can exchange letters that will serve as a beautiful memory you can re-read and look back on in the future.
- Mail a care package.
Speaking of snail mail, take this one step further by sending a care package to an aging loved one. Consider including some activities or treats they enjoy, but may not be able to go out and get on their own. Many online retailers can bundle and ship such items to them directly and are taking all precautions to keep their items sanitary and safe.
- Ask directly about how they feel.
Checking in is the first step, but the next important step is being sure to ask your senior friends and family how they feel. Are they feeling anxious, lonely, unwell, or depressed? It’s human to not want to openly share our emotions, especially if they are negative. Yet, when someone asks us directly, we are far more inclined to share the hard truth – which also provides an opportunity to get help.
- Help answer their phone, app, or social media questions.
Adult children, you are so vital to your aging parents right now. In an effort to feel connected to the world during social distancing, they will turn to technology, much of which may confuse or frustrate them. Be patient and kind when helping them with their IT questions. This is one of the most loving gestures you can show.
- Create something to look forward to in the future.
Finally, give both you and your aging loved one hope for the future and a time when things will feel normal again. Consider planning your first in-person get together. Ask them what they would like to do – and plan it out! Pick a location and an activity. Possibly make a day of it and also ask what you can help them do around the house that needs done. They will be so grateful for the thought, and for something to look ahead to.
Do you have an aging loved one struggling from the isolation and loneliness during this time? Consider implementing a few or all of the above tips this week to help them through the challenges so many of us are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, maintain safe practices for you and your family so we may all overcome this soon and get back to seeing one another in person. Stay well!