Self quarantine and isolation for COVID is recommended as a healthcare strategy to stop the spread of the virus. For some, especially the elderly, this can lead to an unhealthy level of loneliness. According to an article from Barron’s, “Physical distancing is the key that keeps us safe, but we saw residents physically and cognitively declining from two to three weeks of social distancing,”
What is COVID doing to impact your relationship with your family… your aging parents? Even when they live nearby, we are encouraged to stay socially distant. Does that mean that you have not seen your parents in weeks or months? Have you had a COVID homecoming? If so, what did you find? Are they getting what they need for proper nutrition and safety?
Aging parents are not the only ones affected when we have to stay socially distant. “COVID-19 has robbed grandparents of many experiences… that special moment of meeting a grandbaby for the first time has, for many, been yanked away by the pandemic and been replaced by an agonizing wait.”
But how long do we have to wait when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight? According to an AARP article, “Experts recommend that if you are preparing to meet a newborn grandchild soon, all parties should quarantine for two weeks before gathering, even if people appear to be asymptomatic.” If you can’t quarantine completely at home, follow health department guidelines of wearing a mask when in groups where social distancing is not possible; staying six feet apart from others; and frequent hand-washing. All these are proven strategies to help stop the spread of the virus.
Of course, grandparents – especially new ones – tend to want to make sure that their grandchild is being parented properly. Here are some tips from AARP:
WAYS TO HELP NEW PARENTS FROM AFAR
- Use video chat technology, such as Zoom and Facetime, to observe milestones like smiling and rolling.
- Don’t give advice unless asked for it (which can be the tendency when the only option is chatting over the phone).
- Send meals, but don’t forget the impact that snail mail can have. A gift package, a letter, a poem, a book or something sentimental that has shared family meaning is appreciated.
- Try to distract older children with games and stories, via video chat, to give parents a break and allow them to focus on the newborn.
- Use technology to frequently talk to, sing to and interact with, a grandchild.
- Provide empathy and support to new parents, and acknowledge the sadness they’re likely feeling over the limitations of social distancing and the pandemic.
Now that we’ve covered the grandchildren… what about the parents and/or grandparents?
If your elderly loved ones are in a senior care residential setting, be sure to follow the protocols set by the staff. It may be hard to only be able to see them through the window – or a visiting booth set up in the lobby – but it gives you the opportunity to see their physical state, and that’s important. If they aren’t close enough for this type of visit, see if the facility has a virtual visit method that allows them to see and hear you, and vice versa.
And, if they are in self-quarantine in their own home, you have probably already invested in virtual visiting options. From Duke University, here are some options suggested.
HELPING SENIORS CONNECT SAFELY DURING THE PANDEMIC
Bobbi Matchar, director of the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, has these suggestions for decreasing social isolation among seniors while maintaining physical distance:
- Snail mail
- Phone calls, texts, email, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook
- GrandPad (tablet designed for seniors; a good option if people can afford it)
- Volunteering from home by making phone calls (to others in quarantine)
- Watching live-streaming worship services and submitting prayer requests online
- Short neighborhood walks, waving to neighbors
- Online book groups
- Virtual tours, museums, concerts and plays
Normally programs for elders aim to increase human contact. Now that contact is potentially deadly. The National Institute on Aging has an online program called “Go 4 Life” with great at-home exercise videos, a downloadable book, online chat groups, and the option to make and track exercise goals.
NO RETURN TO OLD NORMAL
In all of the articles that I read for this blog (see citations), one thing was clear. This COVID pandemic has been a game-changer. The senior living industry is supporting a transition to more active healthcare available within the facility. From tele-medicine, to technology, to on sight healthcare professionals, they are embracing a new way to dispense care.
The way we participate in commerce has seen a huge shift to online order and delivery. If you have not already researched and set up these options for your parents, now is the time to put things in order. Not only will it meet their needs during the pandemic, but will be more important as they start to lose their mobility. If their goal is to age in place – engage an expert in making sure their home is safe for a change in lifestyle. At Golden Bridges, we have received special training in senior home design, coordination of services, and in down-sizing the things that might be in their way as their needs change.
We hope that you have a Happy COVID Homecoming – whether it’s with grandchildren, parents, or grandparents, and that you will take advantage of the opportunities within this “new normal”. It’s your move… Golden Bridges can help!
Susan Scholz, Partner