Senior Health

8/6/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

In January 2020, news about the COVID-19 virus trickled into the United States.

Because seniors are particularly susceptible to having severe outcomes should they contract COVID-19, many of them continue to stay indoors and socially distance themselves. The same holds true for seniors in independent living and assisted living complexes – in most parts of the country these places are still in lockdown with no visitors allowed inside.

Because their lives have changed so drastically so quickly, it’s no surprise that a great percentage of seniors are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and stress. And if they were used to lots of visits from family and friends, depression will also take its toll.

Here’s how caregivers can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in homebound or facility-bound seniors.

Increase Social Interaction

Even if family and friends can’t get in to a senior’s living area, there’s still plenty of opportunity for social interaction.

Give your loved one a smartphone or a Wi-Fi enabled tablet and write down – clearly – instructions for communicating via free video meeting services such as Zoom, Skype, or Facetime (for Apple). (If the senior has not been using technology prior to this, test some tablets designed specifically for seniors. Providers include such companies as Birdsong and Claris Companion.)

If the senior is completely deaf, this is not a deal breaker. There are programs that offer affordable caption phones, such as CaptTel or CaptionCall to name just a few.

If you’re doing video calling, without caption service, just use a white board. The caller writes what they want to say (one sentence at a time, admittedly!) and shows it to the camera, the senior on the other end reads and responds. Even simply texting will work!

In senior care facilities, staff will usually arrange to bring seniors to a window to see their loved ones outside. Communication takes place via phone (or via whiteboard for the hearing impaired). Just call the front desk to arrange these visits.

If the technology proves too much, family and friends can video themselves on their own phones; they can send a greeting or telling a story about grandkids or great grandkids, and upload this to YouTube. Then a caseworker at a senior care facility can be asked to show the senior the video.

Increase Activity

Keeping mentally and physically active as a senior has always been important, but if a senior is suffering from stress, anxiety and/or depression (and probably all three!) due to social isolation and worry, exercise – and other hobbies – is a great way to relieve that stress.

There are desktop arm exercisers, and floor leg exercisers, or pedal exercises so that a senior can exercise while sitting down. If possible, purchase the highest quality arm and floor exercisers, as “knock off” brands are so flimsy that they rarely work well.

Jigsaw puzzles, drawing, writing one’s biography, or just journaling one’s thoughts are always fun. And new hobbies are easier than ever thanks to a myriad of videos on YouTube. If your loved one is not a fan of writing, have them dictate their memoirs into a recording app. This could be on their smartphone, or on an old-fashioned cassette player.

Decrease News Watching and Reading!

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. There’s little you can do about the COVID-19 shutdown; so, reading or watching the news about it every single day can certainly be depressing – and even confusing.

Staying grounded in the present – accomplishing things every day like finishing a puzzle, a book, a journal entry – keeps us looking forward and reduces anxiety. The future is coming, there’s no need to meet it more than half way!

Encourage your loved one to watch light-hearted TV shows, rather than serious drama. If they’re computer literate, YouTube is a treasure trove of clean humorists – storytellers who tell funny stories without a lot of swearing. Jeanne Robertson is an excellent choice.

Documentaries on practically any subject under the sun are available; and they all can be listened to or watched with captions.

Stay Positive!

Encourage your senior(s) to maintain a positive attitude at all times. After all, “this too shall pass.”

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff