The Covid lockdowns have taken a toll on all of us. But it’s particularly hard on seniors. Residential facilities have been almost totally locked down for months, with no visitors allowed in, or excursions out. Independent seniors have had to take added precautions
KPRC in Houston has some more on the physical toll this isolation is taking on seniors.
“[Dr. Carmel Dyer, the University of Texas at Houston] says when seniors are socially isolated for too long, their immune systems can decline and brain chemicals are not stimulated like before. Depression is common.
“An older adult could say they feel depressed, or they don’t feel depressed. Instead, they want to sleep all of the time, they are not eating, the memory will change suddenly,” Dyer explained. “Three months ago they were fine, now they are very forgetful they are scatterbrained.”
Caseworkers with Adult Protective Services are also checking in on seniors who are homebound during this time.”
There are things that you can do to help your senior loved ones out.
- Call frequently. Even a short call can help ease the stress of isolation. Encourage younger relatives to call too.
- Provide distractions. Games, puzzles, hobbies, movies, music, and even snacks can help take their minds off of isolation, and lift the veil of depression. They don’t need to be pricey, and even small distractions can help.
- Discourage excessive news watching. We’ve all likely experienced the ‘news zombie’ phenomenon, where we get so transfixed by explosive news events that we fixate on the coverage to our detriment. That happens even more frequently to seniors. Encourage them to watch other programs if they live at home. If they’re in residence, contact the management and ask if they can limit the amount of time news channels play in common areas.
- Plan for the future, but in vague terms. Seniors want the lockdown to end. They want to see their families and friends, and to do their activities. Talking about those plans is great, but don’t set hard dates that you cannot be guaranteed will happen. “I can’t wait until we can get together for a barbecue” is fine. “We’re planning a barbecue for July 4th weekend, and we can’t wait to see you” is problematic. A firm event that gets canceled can be more emotionally damaging than vague ones. At least for now, it’s better to play it safe and err on the side of caution when discussing plans.
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