20 May Looking after the elderly during the Coronavirus
We have all started to adapt to our “new normal” during the current climate and many of us have started to get out a bit more and even meet up with a friend outdoors, whilst keeping “socially distanced”. But what about our elderly relatives, who are vulnerable and need to remain indoors where possible? We are all aware that older people are more likely to become severely ill if they catch the coronavirus and many people are naturally scared to venture outside. This month we’d like to share our tips about staying in touch and helping those who are particularly vulnerable.
- We think communication is the most important thing. If you can keep in touch on a regular basis it will make a big difference; even a 5 minute phone call each day just to check in and see how things are.
- Offer to do their shopping or collect any essential things they might need such as medication, to help them avoid the stress of having to venture out.
- You can arrange a “door step visit”. You don’t need to go into the house, but can chat on the doorstep, whilst keeping at least 2 metres apart. Sometimes some human contact and a smiling face can be enough to lift somebody’s spirits.
- Write a letter! There’s something special about receiving a hand written card. You could even encourage younger family members to draw pictures or send artwork to their elderly relatives to let them know you are thinking of them.
- Use the amazing technology available – Thanks to Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts you can arrange video calls and you can even share screens to enjoy experiences together. How about a trip to the theatre? There are lots of theatre shows, ballets and operas streaming on YouTube. You can even take your elderly relative on a South African Safari! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ8Ii_4jgKI
- Enjoy a virtual game together. Grandparents can play easy to learn games such as Connect 4 with grandchildren – all you need is an ipad, computer or smartphone. There are many apps you can download to play your favourite games with your loved one. For example, how about a game of chess on this site? https://www.zynga.com/games/chess-with-friends/
What if you are worried about someone’s mental health?
Mental health charity Mind has tips for those who may be alone or worried about the virus, including putting extra photos up of people you care about, and limiting how long you read the news.
It says elderly relatives could also be encouraged to:
- Stay active by cleaning, dancing, or doing seated exercises.
- Get as much sunlight and fresh air as they can.
- Join an online support community, such as Elefriends.
There are also steps to help prevent loneliness in those avoiding contact or staying at home. Olivia Field, loneliness lead at the British Red Cross, says those staying at home should make sure they find time to do things they enjoy, such as watching TV, reading, writing, puzzles, art or cooking.
“Ensuring you feel stimulated and have fun protects against loneliness and improves your general wellbeing,” she says. “Talking to people about your worries, about feeling lonely, or simply just about your day, helps.”
Please note that it is important to follow Government guidelines at all times. If you are visiting an elderly relative for an essential purpose, you should “keep a bit more distance, no kissing and hugging, sadly, and those hand hygiene practices are incredibly important”, says Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. In its online advice, Carers UK echoes this sentiment, saying the best way to protect people you come into contact with is to protect yourself by washing your hands well and often, using sanitiser gel when it is not possible to wash, and generally following NHS advice on not spreading the virus.