July 23, 2020
Social distancing has dramatically changed how we interact with others, especially older relatives. While taking care of ourselves is important, looking out for aging parents and loved ones is more critical than ever. The risk of social isolation is higher without regular visitors and normal activities happening. This can lead to a lower immunity, decreased mental health, and a significant deterioration in the quality of life of older generations. Keeping older adults active is no doubt more challenging, but not impossible. Here are some keys to consider as you care for your loved ones either in your home or from a distance.
Cover the basics
Staying active begins with making sure all of their basic needs have been met. Keeping in touch with older loved ones about any changes in instructions on social distancing and any other COVID-19 updates from the Centers for Disease Control will help you make better decisions and help everyone avoid misinformation.
Ask directly about things like hydration and nutrition. Check that they have all of their medications and prescriptions up to date. If your relative has been undergoing any kind of physical or occupational therapy, ask the therapist how they are progressing and if they need to pause or delay other things until they’re ready. It’s also a good idea to ask the therapist about their health and the health of the people they work with. Knowing the general condition as well as the limits of your loved ones will help you and the care providers make the best calls together.
Senior living facilities, local gyms, or senior centers offer regular group exercise classes that may be unavailable during this time. Talk to the staff about other options to get them up and moving. Regular walks outside are still permitted. If able to do so, yoga and tai chi can help your loved ones relax and stay active. Even simple stretching is great to get them up and moving, with the side effect of mood boosting!
Gardening and Crafting
Simply getting outside daily does wonders for all of us. Make sure there are safe and open areas for older adults to sit and walk around. Gardening and other activities can work both the body and the mind. Some hobbies normally done indoors can be moved outside. While inside, crafting, painting, knitting, and crocheting can keep the brain active and the hands moving.
Most local health departments are limiting the number of people in groups and encouraging only critical face-to-face interactions. Fortunately, technology helps lift some of these limits and allows us to connect in new and beneficial ways. Regular phone and video calls from family and friends can do wonders to lift their spirits, especially in these confusing times. Having grandkids write letters is great for both young and old. Sharing stories and showing old pictures and videos is another great way to connect and care for the elderly. You might even consider a family workout over a video conference!
There are many other ways that care providers may have already implemented to keep older adults active. This generation has lived through some hard and difficult times, and it’s important to remind them frequently that even though there are many unknowns, this will pass. It’s important to be cautious, but even more important is to remember that care isn’t limited during this time, just a little different.