Virtually everyone can agree that COVID-19 has altered our way of life. Business closures, quarantines, and social distancing have become a new normal. Those in nursing homes faced a new normal of restricted visitation and group activities. The important thing to remember is to get creative and still reach out to those seniors in a nursing home; however, that can be safely done. Isolation brings with it loneliness, which can have devastating effects on the senior’s physical and mental health. In fact, a study found that feeling alone increases the risk of death by 26%; social isolation increases the risk of death by 29%. Nursing home residents need to know that they are not expendable; they are valued members of our society, and we are willing to put in the work to stay in touch and know they are safe.
It is also important to educate seniors on correct information that comes out in relation to COVID-19. Many people nowadays get their “news” from social media or elsewhere on the internet. Ensure that the senior isn’t getting misinformation, but instead is correctly informed about the virus, ways to protect themselves, and the state of what can safely be accomplished at the given time.
Finally, reach out to nursing homes to see how one can help. Could the nursing home benefit from donations of time or money? Does the facility have enough masks or PPE? Can you be teamed up with a resident who doesn’t have family or friends to be their new support system? Employees are likely working extra hard to keep residents from being lonely, such as playing board games with them or helping them with technology to stay in touch with family and friends. Show extra support and consideration for these hard-working folks.
Hopefully, there will soon be a day when COVID-19 isn’t a serious threat to seniors. We can then get back to visiting in-person, dining together, and taking seniors out for activities. Until that day comes, it is important to still find ways to interact with residents of nursing homes, to battle isolation, give hope, and stay in touch.