As people around the globe begin to settle into a new normal of social distancing, more seniors in care facilities will be isolated for their protection. Visitors not necessary for medical care to support activities of daily living like bathing and eating will be prohibited for the next several weeks at least. But thanks to today’s technology, families and friends can maintain social contact and help older adults feel less isolated.
According to the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE), there are many ways to help seniors who are isolated in long term care facilities or shut-in at home. An iPad or other tablet or smartphone can be used to video chat using apps like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom. With the permission of older adults, you can set up times to leave one of these apps on, perhaps during mealtimes, to allow seniors to feel like part of the household.
In most families, the kids are home and restless. Try involving them in projects like letter writing, taking photos, sharing videos or creating a photo board to be placed in an elderly loved-ones room. Covering a photo board with shrink wrap will allow it to be wiped down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
By planning ahead to talk on the phone or video chat at a set time, older adults will have something to look forward to each day. Families can start their own book club, downloading the same book to a tablet; electronics can be wiped down with antibacterial cleansers, unlike paper books. When everyone has finished the book, families or friends can gather virtually to discuss.
Loved-ones can also plan to watch the same movie or TV show as a group and chat afterward, or during the video on another device. Online crosswords, word searches and other games can be enjoyed together as well. Check YouTube for exercise videos that can help older adults stay active while they are isolated; Yoga, Tai Chi or strength training are just a few activities that can help seniors maintain their physical function and prevent falls.
Don’t forget about the benefit of listening to music to boost mood, provide comfort and lessen anxiety. Familiar music can lower blood pressure, reduce pain, improve sleep quality and studies have found that listening to music has a positive effect on the brain, improving memory and mental alertness.
Stay connected (at a distance of at least 3 feet), wash your hands, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and keep a good supply of non-perishable food, paper products, soap and medications. And if you are feeling unwell with symptoms including a dry cough, fever and difficulty breathing, call your doctor for instructions.
We would love to hear more ideas for combating social isolation during these unprecedented times. Leave us your ideas in the comments.