The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in one way or another. Businesses and schools have been closed while infections surge across the nation. For many people struggling with mental health issues, the last several months have worsened their conditions.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the lives of the elderly. Many senior citizens are already dealing with the loneliness that sometimes comes with growing older. COVID-19 restrictions that are in place to protect our nation’s most vulnerable population, the elderly, can contribute to the isolation that comes with social distancing and visitation restrictions.
Now, more than ever, we have to find new and meaningful ways to engage seniors, provide mental health support, and provide for their need for human connection. Organizations and Continuing Care Retirement Communities across the nation have shared ideas of helping senior citizens during this health crisis.
Technology has done a lot to minimize the impacts of social distancing. Facebook Portal, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom have helped seniors see loved ones face to face when they can’t be together physically. Some assisted living communities have started to enjoy “virtual book clubs” and “virtual happy hours” with Zoom. Socially distanced doesn’t have to mean socially isolated.
Many nursing homes have discovered ways to engage seniors in activities while maintaining safe distances. Hallway bingo has become a popular pastime in many communities. Those who prefer solitary activities can find pleasure in jigsaw puzzles, word finds, and crossword puzzles. Reading is another excellent way to pass the time and stimulate the brain, and most books come in audible form for those who have trouble with their eyesight.
Sending cards and letters to older relatives is a great way to lift their spirits. Window visits have also become increasingly popular. Decorating seniors’ windows in nursing or personal care homes can also go a long way in supporting their mental health.
Caregivers play an essential role in supporting the mental health of seniors. In addition to providing physical care, they can also provide companionship, play games, and help with technology.
Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to provide mental health support to the elderly to get us through the COVID-19 pandemic. Creativity and innovation can continue to help see us through.