Older people have had a difficult time during the pandemic. Those in nursing homes are isolated and often in strict quarantine, unable to see their loved ones. Others have been uprooted from their homes so that they could be cared for by relatives. Still others are fending for themselves, trying to make the best of a scary situation, knowing their vulnerability and yet having to go on with daily life that could include shopping and interacting with others, despite the risk of COVID-19.
According to NPR, Silvia Perel-Levin, an expert advocate for the rights of older people, says that caring for older people during the pandemic means clear communication. Don’t make decisions for them, she says, without asking about their feelings on the matter.
Bette Ann Moskowitz, the 80-year-old author of Finishing Up: On Ageing and Ageism, says that older people may miss the life they have before the pandemic, especially if they’ve been uprooted from their homes.
Younger relatives can say, “Gramma, I know you’re not happy here and I get it. What could you do to make it better for you if you were going to stay? What things would you change?” she tells NPR.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Alicia Arbaje, M.D., who specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics, share her tips on how to make elderly people feel safer:
- Limit in-person visits but encourage seniors to socialize by saying hello to the mail carrier or checking in on neighbors while practicing physical distancing. Show them how to video chat with others using smartphones and tablets.
- Encourage spiritual practice. Even with many houses of worship closed, caregivers can help their loved ones access online services.
- Get them involved in projects like organizing old photos or memorabilia, says Arbaje.
- Postpone unnecessary doctors’ visits. If the older adult in your family is feeling well, you may want consider postponing the annual checkup and other non-essential medical visits to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
- Give caretakers a break. According to NPR, family members can pitch in and bring meals, especially if the older person has a caretaker in charge of cooking and meal planning. Delivering wholesome meals is an important way to support seniors both physically and emotionally.
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