By modifying our actions, we can reduce their chance of infection and help them stay mentally healthy during these uncertain times.
Observing social distancing and discussing care from a distance
The best way older people can protect themselves from coronavirus is to limit their contact with other people. Unfortunately, this means no visits from friends and family for a while and no trips to public places. Understandably this is disappointing for everyone, but it’s only temporary until the level of risk subsides.
Discussing how you will continue to support your older loved ones – from a distance – during this time can help to ease anxieties and provide much-needed reassurance.
Talk through the logistics of how you envision this support working. For example, if you usually take your loved one to do their weekly food shop, you might do this alone and drop the shopping at their door instead. If they usually do things independently, offer to run their errands for them if possible or encourage them to make use of online ordering services (where available) for a while.
Research shows one in five older Australians feels lonely, particularly those aged 75 and over.
When stopping physical visits, it’s important to replace the visits with other means of communication such as more regular phone calls, emails, messages and speaking through video calls can help maintain that important connection until face-to-face visits are possible again.
Online resources to help manage low mood, anxiety and depression are available specifically for older people (60+ years) such as the Wellbeing Plus course from MindSpot.
MindSpot has also put together 10 psychological tips for coping with coronavirus, offering some excellent advice to help people stay mentally healthy during this uncertain time.
When you speak to the older people in your life, ask them how they are feeling and give them the opportunity to talk about anything that’s bothering them. Talking through our concerns can help to put our minds at ease. Showing understanding of someone’s anxiety and showing empathy can help a person feel supported at a time when they may be feeling particularly vulnerable.
Providing distraction and encouraging positivity
There’s no escaping the subject of coronavirus. Being stuck at home can make it even harder to avoid the news, which is why it’s important to talk about other aspects of life – particularly the positives.
Keeping your older loved ones up-to-date with personal news, like a new skill their grandchild or great-grandchild has mastered is a great way. Photos and videos are even better while face-to-face visits are on hold. A surprise letter in the mail is a sure-fire way to brighten someone’s day.
Talking about future plans can also give a sense of optimism while providing reassurance that life will eventually return to normal.