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How to speak with your elderly loved ones about COVID-19

With COVID-19 cases growing rapidly, our daily routines are becoming unrecognizable. Disruptions have given way to panic for many, deeply affecting our mental and emotional well-being.

In the midst of a crisis, everyone responds differently. However, older people age 60 and up and those with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19 could show even more signs of stress.

Gauge understanding

If you are worried about an elderly loved one and how they are feeling, start with a simple question. Asking, “What have you heard about the Coronavirus?” is an easy way to open the conversation without showing fear or judgment. You will be able to get an understanding of what they are thinking and how much they know.

Signs of distress

Pay attention to how seniors in your life are behaving. The Centers for Disease Control advises to look for signs of stress, including: excessive fear and worry about their health or the health of their loved ones, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

Ways to cope

To help your older friends and relatives deal with the stress and uncertainty around COVID-19, encourage them to:

  • Take a break from media coverage and social media. It’s important to stay in the know, but excessive exposure and sensationalized speculation found especially on social media can add unneeded worry.
  • Practice self-care. Turn to mindfulness practices like meditation and breathing techniques to reduce stress. Eat healthy, get plenty of rest and exercise.
  • Do something they enjoy. This could be simple things like reading, listening to music or doing a puzzle.
  • Share their feelings. Encourage your loved one to talk about how they are feeling and any concerns they are having.

How to help

It is extremely important to maintain social connections with seniors who are isolated. Although face-to-face contact might not be an option, there are other ways to ensure they do not feel alone. Ideas include making frequent telephone or video calls, sharing photographs by email or through social media, or using a delivery service for groceries or even flowers. Also, a handwritten note or card could be just the thing to cheer up an isolated loved one. It is a tangible and visible reminder they are cared for and not forgotten.

Other important ways to help include knowing what medications your loved one is taking and making sure they have enough on hand, monitoring food and medical supplies, and helping them disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

For more information about maintaining your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the National Association of Mental Illness HelpLine Coronavirus Information and Resources Guide. And at Oceans Healthcare, we are here 24/7 to help adults and seniors with behavioral health issues attain the best possible quality of life. Call a location near you.

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