COVID-19 has effectively overturned our lives as we knew them. While we are all feeling the effects of this worldwide pandemic, the elderly and those in nursing homes may be feeling the repercussions more intensely than the rest of us. This is because of the extra precautions—like no visitors at nursing homes, even close family—that are being implemented to prevent COVID-19 infections among vulnerable residents. While these measures to protect the health of our loved ones are for the best, they have also left many of those in nursing homes feeling confused, isolated, and lonely.
Why We Need to Make an Effort
Stay-at-home orders are adversely affecting everyone, but the consequences may be much graver for the elderly. Cutting nursing home residents off from their family and friends by not allowing visitors is causing increased stress during an already very stressful time and has left many residents feeling lonely and isolated, not to mention their family members who miss seeing them. This is significant because studies show that people who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to have heart disease, stroke, depression, and problems with their immune system. Recent research has also found that social isolation, and loneliness boost the chance of premature death at least as much as smoking and obesity. That is why it is absolutely vital to stay as connected as possible to your loved ones while also protecting them from COVID-19. Luckily, we live in an age where there are many tools available to help us stay connected to those who need us most during this tumultuous time.
Creative Ways to Stay Connected
- Texting, calling, and emailing are the most obvious ways to stay connected to those you love. Using these options to communicate with your loved ones as often as possible can make an immense difference during this time.
- Use video communication services. Zoom, Skype, and Facetime are all great options that allow multiple people to video chat at once. You can ask the staff at the nursing home to set this up for your loved one and then leave the room so that you can have a private conversation with them. Set up regular video chats and invite family members and friends to join in.
- If video chatting is not available to you, record a short video for your loved one and send it an email or a text, or upload it to your Facebook page for them to see.
- Schedule a time to watch the same TV show, movie, or concert and then call to talk about it afterward.
- Online multiplayer games can be played with your loved ones via a phone or computer. There are many options available: websites like Arkadium, or apps like Words With Friends, and GamePigeon for iPhones are just a few good examples.
- Send letters, cards, or care packages to the nursing home facility. (Check first to see if this is allowed and if the items are thoroughly cleaned before residents receive them.) This special touch will mean a lot to your loved ones and can turn a stressful day into a good one.
- Bring a handmade sign to the nursing home and meet with your loved one through a window or glass door.
Prioritizing your health and the health of those around you is by far the most important thing to do right now. But paying attention to the psychological well-being of those you love during this time is just as important. Staying connected is a vital part of that.