While vaccination rates are going up and lockdowns are easing, we’re not out of the woods with COVID just yet. The experience has been hardest on the elderly members of our population, many of whom already experienced limited mobility. Unofficial “lockdowns” can also affect elderly people, as the latest recommendation is for people over 70 to stay home.
Should we go into another lockdown – or you have a family member in another region entering a lockdown – here are five ways you can support an elderly family member!
The easiest way you can support your elderly family member is to stay in touch. During the last lockdowns, the worst feeling for many people was the isolation – it could feel like you were hundreds of miles away from even your closest neighbour.
Make sure you ask about their health during the call. If you notice any changes in communication on their part – your loved one stops reaching out, seems untalkative, etc. – it could be a sign that they’re not doing well.
Make Sure They Have What They Need
Seniors may rely on their family members for groceries, but lockdowns have made many other goods essential. If this is the case, make sure to ask your loved ones if they have enough hygiene supplies, such as toilet paper and soap, on top of food.
Provide Caregiving Services
Some older adults need caregivers to cook, clean and perform other tasks for them, and this doesn’t have to stop during a lockdown. Home health care has always been an essential service for older adults living with frailty, chronic disabling conditions, and individuals at the end of life.
It is always acceptable for seniors to ask that caregivers wear masks and gloves and wash their hands often (though a good caregiver will follow strict protocols for the safety of others).
Use Safe Practices
If you’re acting as a caregiver or offering support, you should take all the precautions necessary to avoid becoming infected yourself. Ensure that your loved one is also taking precautions, including wearing a face-covering indoors (and outdoors if you cannot maintain physical distancing) and washing hands thoroughly and regularly.
Never cut corners on safety during a lockdown. Seniors are likely to have weaker immune systems, and even if you think you’re ready to visit your older relatives, you should still keep their health top of mind. If we go into lockdown again, the guidelines may vary based on municipal rules; if long-distance travel is necessary for care, you’ll need to account for these restrictions.
If your whole family is pitching in, divide the caregiving tasks and assign them practical things that they can do to help. These include getting groceries, helping with yard work, doing online shopping, and setting up telemedicine services. Even keeping a phone call schedule can make a world of difference for your elderly family member. Many hands make light work!
Encourage Technology Use
Elderly family members may be resistant to technology, but it’s often the best way to talk with young relatives – the best way in a time of unpredictable lockdowns. Once you install FaceTime or Zoom and explain how it works, they may wonder how they ever lived without it!
A tablet is an excellent gift – iPads are very user-friendly, and they can help them maintain social engagement with family and friends. It can also let them access their healthcare services online, eliminating the need for in-person trips.