As social distancing is advised during the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be challenging to support older family members. Human connection is important, but right now we must distance ourselves from older loved ones to prioritize their health and safety.
Unless we live with our older family members, we can’t spend time with them in person, but we can still find ways to show our love.
Technology can bring us closer 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 the app Houseparty. Family members in any location can virtually get together and see one another.
If you have a loved one that is feeling lonely or isolated, remind them that you love them and want to protect their health as much as possible. 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.
Drop-off Groceries and Essentials
To avoid unnecessary exposure, older adults should stay home, even avoiding trips to the grocery store and pharmacy. Offer to grocery shop for your older loved one. Call them and make a list of items they need including food, toiletries and prescriptions.
If your older loved ones can unload the groceries on their own, leave the groceries on their doorstep. Wave at them through the window. If you must unload the bags for them, request that they isolate in their bedroom while you unload items in the kitchen. Use cleaning wipes or spray to sanitize the areas that you and the bags have touched to avoid the spread of germs.
Notes and Cards
Hand-written notes and cards are a thoughtful gesture to show your love. Write a note explaining what they mean to you or what you are excited to do together once the quarantine is over. If you can, include a photo of you two at one of your favorite places or from one of your favorite memories. If you have children or younger family members, ask them to draw cards or write notes for your loved one as well.
Encourage Your Loved Ones to Take Breaks from the News
If your older loved one is isolated, they may be tempted to become trapped in the endless news cycle. This can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Remind them to take breaks from the news and encourage them to spend time doing other in-home activities. Offer ideas for activities such as reading, puzzles, card games or some gentle at-home yoga.
While difficult, remember that distancing yourself from your older loved one during this time is an act of love.