How to support seniors living in retirement communities or alone during COVID-19
Published on March 20, 2020
As we all continue to grapple with the challenges posed by COVID-19, one thing is clear: the need to protect our older adults by minimizing their interaction with others to avoid infection. Sadly, this means reducing or eliminating time with family and friends.
Whether your older loved one lives alone or in a retirement community, this new reality can have an impact on their mental health and bring on feelings of loneliness or depression. Seniors who live in a retirement community are still surrounded by others, including fellow Community Members and the Team Members who provide companionship and services to them throughout the day. Sadly, those who live on their own face an even more challenging situation.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help relieve the potential stress, boredom and loneliness that some seniors might be experiencing during this difficult time.
What you can do to support seniors through COVID-19
1) Use technology to communicate with videoconferencing
Luckily, we live in a time where there are many options to use technology to connect with one another. From mobile phones to laptop computers, the vast majority of people already have the tools to do this. And if you have a desktop computer, a “webcam” is an affordable accessory that can be easily purchased online and quickly installed. In most cases, popular communication platforms – such as Whatsapp and Apple’s suite of apps – offer video calling features. Examples include Apple’s FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. Many of these even allow for multiple users on one call, so you can have a virtual get-together with siblings and parents or grandparents.
2) Go “old school” with a pen and paper
Remember those? There is something romantic about sending and receiving a hand-written note. Now that everyone has been forced to slow down, take advantage of the extra time. With fewer places to go, why not hand write a letter or postcard to your senior loved ones living in isolation? A little fancy paper and a fountain pen can go a long way to bringing a smile to anyone’s face.
3) Get the kids involved!
With schools temporarily closed, we all know a few kids who can certainly use a break from screens and snacks. Why not recruit the children to get creative and produce an array of handmade artwork, greeting cards and other gifts. The web is brimming with kid-friendly projects that will undoubtedly bring a smile to the seniors living in retirement communities or home alone. Better yet, consider taking it a step further, and have those prolific little artists pump out a few more pieces of art for seniors who may not have younger relatives sending them thoughtful presents.
4) Prepare a care package and drop it off at the front door
If your senior loved one is living in a retirement community, then you have the peace of mind that they are receiving the meals, medication and care services they require. Sadly, if your loved one is living alone, this may no longer be the case. Either way, there may be a few items that seniors rely on – or simply like to have around – that they would typically purchase on their own from the local grocery store or pharmacy. Given they’ve been advised against leaving their home, but you’re likely heading to the grocery store to shop for your family, consider picking up some of their favourite items too. While retirement communities are now restricting access to essential visitors only, there is nothing stopping family and friends from dropping off care packages full of the special treats and household items at the concierge desk. If your loved one is still living alone at home, you can drop these packages off too, but be sure to exercise social distancing.
5) Teach them how to shop online
If you can’t provide a care package to your loved one in person, consider placing an order for them via online shopping services. Amazon, Walmart, Loblaws (PC Express), Longo’s (Grocery Gateway) and Costco are just a few of the stores that offer online shopping, including groceries and household items. Better yet, if your loved one is somewhat tech-savvy, consider giving them an online lesson in how to shop online. Many of the videoconferencing services mentioned above offer a screen-share feature which enables users to see one another’s screen – the perfect way to show someone how to use a website for online shopping.
These are just a few actions you can take to support your loved ones while they face potential loneliness and boredom brought on by restrictions enacted to protect them from COVID-19.