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Covid-19 and the Impact of Social Isolation on Our Elderly Loved Ones

Lenora is 93 and lives in nursing home. Since the start of the pandemic, she has been alone in her room. For 3 months, she has had to eat all of her meals alone in her small room, unable to leave for any type of social interaction or activity.

She hasn’t had any physical contact with her family, friends, or even other residents because of the restrictions in place.

Lenora cries when talking about her profound loneliness. Like other vulnerable seniors living in retirement homes and long-term care facilities, every day is the same in her room, each day bleeding into the next with no distinction.

Her favorite TV programs and music are no longer providing her with enjoyment or distraction from the realities of the situation and her sadness.

These measures are necessary to protect residents in these communities from Covid-19, but the impact of isolation and loneliness can take an equally devastating toll on mental and physical health.

Depression, anxiety, and chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, and death are just some of the risks associated with isolation and loneliness in seniors.

Time with family, friends, and peers is important through all stages of life, but especially so in our later years. It improves our sense of wellbeing, contributes to our joy, and helps give life meaning.

As the pandemic continues, the ongoing isolation and loneliness, and the uncertainty of how long it will go on has many seniors in long-term care homes questioning their faith and whether or not their lives have any meaning. According to various reports, many lonely seniors are also experiencing increased suicidal thoughts.

How much longer will Lenora and others in long-term care homes have to go without an embrace from a loved one or a meal shared with another human being?

Are these things they will ever be able to do again in their lifetime?

How we’re helping seniors deal with Covid-19 isolation and how you can, too

Seniors living alone are also grappling with the strains of social isolation during the pandemic. For those who have in-home care, however, remaining at home to prevent contracting Covid-19 has been a lot easier.

Our care recipients have their caregivers there every day, even if just for a few hours. This goes a long way in combating loneliness.

In-home care isn’t just about help with the tasks of daily living and chores, but also companionship.

Care recipients are able to share conversation and a meal with another person – something Lenora and so many in her situation are longing for.

Having a caregiver has also allowed seniors, including those with physical challenges, to be able to connect with their loved ones from a distance.

We know firsthand how our caregivers have helped care recipients connect safely with their family members who visit them at a distance in their backyards or gardens.

Here are some things you can do to help your elderly loved one deal with social isolation:

  • Stay in regular contact through telephone calls, and if possible, video calls.
  • Consider hiring a caregiver for regular visits even if your loved one is healthy and self-sufficient to help combat loneliness.
  • Arrange to watch TV programs or a movie “together” over the phone so you can share the experience and laugh together.
  • If possible, visit your loved one from distance, even if just seeing each other through a window.
  • Provide them with some routine and predictability by arranging and sticking to scheduled distanced contact so they have something to look forward to.
  • Encourage your loved one to get some physical activity every day, a caregiver can help them do this safely.
  • Express your love and appreciation for them every day so they know they are valued.

Finally, if your parent or loved one is living in a long-term care facility or other retirement community and struggling with isolation, moving them into their own home, or your home, may be a viable option with the help of home care services.

Give us a call if you’d like to learn more about how our services can help you and your aging loved one transition from a facility to the comfort and safety of your home or theirs.

 

Article sources

  • Oi-Yee Li, H and Huynh, D. (2020). Long-term social distancing during COVID-19: A social isolation crisis among seniors? https://www.cmaj.ca/content/192/21/E588

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