Maybe it’s a parent or grandparent, a neighbor down the street or a friend from church. Chances are, there are older adults in your life. And as we’ve all seen in the news, seniors are among those at highest risk for serious illness from the coronavirus.
Whether you’re a family caregiver or just someone who cares, there are steps you can take to support the older adults around you — while also balancing your own work-at-home responsibilities.
This might seem like a duh-huh, but you can’t help others if you’re sick yourself. And preventive actions are even more important if you live with or are in contact with vulnerable older adults. So be extra diligent with hand-washing, sanitizer and cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces. And as much as you might like to, now’s not the time to hug that sweet lady next door — for both your sakes.
Take stock of supplies.
Frequent trips to the store cut into your time and expand the opportunities for exposure to the virus. Reduce the need to venture out by checking how much food, medication and cleaning supplies you and your senior have on hand. AARP recommends a 2-week supply of basics and an extra 30-day supply of essential medications. (Note: This doesn’t mean hoard. Get what you need and allow others to do the same.)
Stay in contact.
Isolation is often a concern for seniors, even without social distancing. Take advantage of technology such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom to stay in touch with older adults or help them connect with other family members and friends. Schedule calls so your senior knows what to expect — and you can be sure to meet your work responsibilities, too. You can always go “old school” and mail a card or letter, too.
Keep the faith.
“Faith communities are often a big part of older adults’ social lives,” points out Dr. Alicia Arbaje, an internal medicine and geriatrics specialist at Johns Hopkins. Closed doors on most houses of worship could be closing off another avenue of support your senior normally relies on. But many churches and other groups are hosting live online services or recording them for convenient viewing. You can help make sure older adults know how to access these digital services.
Don’t try to go it alone.
Make a list of other family members, neighbors, friends and community resources that might be able to help — and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people are eager to do what they can for others during this crisis. Could a neighbor heading to the store pick up a few items or a prescription for your senior? If the older adult isn’t nearby, look into services such as Meals on Wheels or restaurant meal delivery services.