How to support elderly friends and family during the pandemic

Living alone can be tough at times, especially if you are an older adult, even more so if you factor in the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic and its social distancing mandates. But there are things you can do to help your elderly friends and family during these challenging times.


Many senior citizens are not using technology to keep in touch with family and friends, often because they think it is too hard to use. Cedars Sinai says to offer gentle encouragement about technology. You can even make it easier by purchasing a tablet or phone loaded with apps and teach your loved one how to use them. In San Antonio, Senior Planet provides courses to help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends all through technology. “Imagine your parent using a tablet to communicate with other friends and family, but they can also use the technology to watch movies, TV shows, and perhaps programming they used to watch regularly when they were younger,” said Pride PHC Vice President Andres Cruz.


Even without coming into contact with other people physically, there are ways for older adults to socialize and connect. Jewish Family Service says there are many online activities older adults can take part in which encourage socialization.. Examples include online courses such as cooking or crafting, video chats, support groups on social media networks like Facebook, and even online game sites where they can play against other people including friends and family or even people they are looking to connect with in a safe way.


In-person visits with clients in your care does increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, so these visits need to be as distanced as possible and should include use of a mask when the work of a caregiver requires interaction within 6 feet of their client. That said, make sure you are not living a life of isolation.  John’s Hopkins Medicine says seniors should be encouraged to think beyond their usual circle of friends or family. Cruz said, “That means saying hello to their mail carrier, talking to a neighbor from a distance or on the phone, or even waving hello to a delivery truck if you happen to see one pass by.” Any type of communication, no matter how small, can make a huge difference. 


Communication during the COVID-19 pandemic is arguably more important than during non-pandemic times because of social distancing. Talking about your feelings, and asking your loved one to talk about theirs is just another tool in the toolbox of making sure your senior stays connected, but you have to make sure you listen to how they feel and what they say, and make sure to respond to it so they know you are paying attention. Patient News also says to use time-based language so if they are going through a tough time, they’ll know it won’t be as bad in the near future.

Don’t let COVID-19 win and take over the lives of your loved one even if they aren’t directly impacted by the virus. The more connected your elderly friend or loved one is with the rest of the world, the brighter their outlook will be on life, and any chance of depression or stress being minimized with every step.

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