Social distancing policies were put in place early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. They were meant to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with too many patients at a time. And it worked. There are strict guidelines in place all across the country designed to keep people safe, and except in a few notable cases, hospitals have been able to keep up with the demand and help people more effectively.
Some seniors are using this opportunity to engage in hobbies or interests that they enjoy. They are reading more, spending more time in the garden, or even beginning to exercise. These are all good things
But the loneliness can be crushing. There are so many seniors that are suffering from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety that weren’t really suffering from these things beforehand. If they were, the symptoms were manageable. But loneliness has a way of making these things worse. The restrictions of COVID have helped to ensure that even those of us that were very social before are grappling with this at times. Seniors, who were already at risk of isolation before the pandemic, are experiencing this at a greater rate than any other segment of the population. Needless to say, this has been a difficult time.
COVID has not done us any favors. The social distancing guidelines that have been put in place are meant to keep us all safer from the virus, but they don’t keep us safe from social isolation, loneliness, and depression. The guidelines trade one type of health for another.
Many authorities realized this too late. Unfortunately, there’s already been quite a bit of damage done. Lives have been lost because of mental illness, and this goes well beyond the senior population. It’s reaching every portion of our population, regardless of age, gender, and situation. The virus has had a toll well beyond the damage that the coronavirus itself is capable of.
What can you do to help those you love avoid this? Are there things that you can change about your daily routine to help ensure that your older loved ones are not being forgotten? Sometimes, these changes can be as easy as a daily video chat. Sometime, more extensive changes will need to be made. A lot of it depends on your specific situation, where your loved one lives, and what their level of need is.
Start by evaluating what your loved one’s needs are. Would your loved one benefit from exercise? How can this be accomplished in a way that also meets social needs? Maybe that means joining an online workout group so that your loved one can establish new friendships and relationships, stay socially distant, but still be social.
Maybe your loved one needs more in-person attention. Are masked, distanced, visits an option? If you can’t do this yourself, maybe someone nearby can. A few phone calls might be exactly what’s necessary to establish this.
Be creative. Your loved one’s health might improve as a result.