As social distancing orders expand in duration for many states during this COVID-19 outbreak, it can prove to be challenging to support our older family members. Human connection is so important, but during these times when we must distance ourselves from older loved ones to prioritize their health and safety, we have to get creative. Even though you cannot physically spend time with them, you can still find ways to show love and support. Here are some great ideas to show support during these uncertain times:
Help with Groceries and Essentials
Even with the dedicated senior shopping times at many local grocery stores and other essential businesses, older adults should avoid this as much as possible to prevent unnecessary exposure. Family members can support their elderly loved ones by offering to grocery shop for them. Make a list of all the items they need including food, toiletries and prescriptions and as much as financially possible, stock their pantries and freezers with enough to last some time.
If your older loved ones can unload the groceries on their own, leave the groceries on their doorstep and wave at them through the window. If you must unload the bags for them, request that they stay in another area of the house while you unload items in the kitchen. Be sure to sanitize the areas that you and the bags have touched to avoid the spread of germs.
Technology can play such a vital role in bringing us together during this time. FaceTime and Skype allow us to video chat with a loved one. You can even video chat with a group of multiple family members with Zoom or Houseparty. This allows family members all over the country to get together virtually.
Consider setting up a time to video chat each day or a few times per week so that they have frequent interaction with loved ones. Spontaneous video chats are always fun too if your loved one is tech savvy enough.
Handwritten Notes, Cards and Drawings
Hand-written notes are often considered outdated but are such a thoughtful gesture to show your love. Writing your loved one a note to explain how much they mean to you or list all the things you are excited to do together once the quarantine is over is such a great gesture. Have your children draw something to add to the card as well and consider adding an updated photo of the family.
Breaks from the News
If your loved one lives alone and is truly socially isolated, they may be tempted to keep the news on the TV daily for some grasp at what is happening in the world. However, endless news cycles, especially of negative news, can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels. Remind them to take breaks from the news and encourage them to spend time doing other activities.
Indoor Activities and Virtual Games
Offer ideas for activities such as reading, puzzles, card games. Some may be surprised what activities they may find in their cupboards collecting dust! If they don’t have their own stock, consider dropping off some of your own games or extra reading material to their house for their use.
If they’re tech savvy enough, consider introducing them to online games or apps that you can play together – such as Words with Friends (electronic scrabble) or Chess with Friends.
Even setting them up with a passive SnapChat account so they can see “in the life” videos of you and your family throughout the day.
Encourage the Outdoors
It is important for everyone to get fresh air when they can and however they can. As long as their backyard, front porch, balcony or open window can keep them safely outside 6ft from any passer-byer, than this should be encouraged daily at the very least. Research has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
While it may be difficult or a little uncomfortable, remember that distancing yourself from your older loved one during this time is an act of love. This will pass and there will be a near future where direct social interaction is safe again. Hang in there and be strong for your loved one.