Helping Seniors During Isolation

Posted by Aline Martin O'Brien on 17th Apr 2020

Helping Seniors During Isolation

While most of the world is under orders or advice to limit all social interaction, visits to elderly and dependent persons are suspended for an indefinite period due to the risk of contagion linked to the Covid-19 epidemic. These friends, neighbors and relatives suffer particularly from the effects of isolation and more than ever need our support.

Since there are healthy carriers of the virus, that is, people who have contracted it without symptoms, everyone should consider themselves a potential spreader of the virus. Avoid contact with fragile people. The real challenge is not just to isolate oneself, but to protect oneself in order to better protect others. To isolate oneself is to make a gesture of solidarity.

But beware of isolation! Elderly people need to be visited. When they isolate themselves and disrupt normal routines, they may easily lose their bearings. You therefore have to be “in touch,” even if you can't touch each other. Look at each other, smile, and really speak and listen to each other, even if you can't touch.

Keeping this contact can trigger your body’s manufacture of oxytocin. Oxytocin, in addition to promoting social interactions, is a hormone that helps lower blood pressure and cortisol (which increases the pain threshold) which in turn reduces anxiety and stimulates various types of positive social interactions.

One of the ways to increase oxytocin in your body is to hear supportive words and listen to others. Indeed, we feel good when we give to others and when others give to us. Being generous and charitable, as well as selflessly giving our time to others, results in feelings of gratitude and connection with others, releasing large doses of oxytocin.

So take this opportunity to send a gift to your loved ones, such as comfortable hotel bedding, since many are spending more time in bed and their comfort at this crucial time is essential. A reading wedge or a body pillow make a great gift as well, to help them stay comfortable while reading and sleeping. It is also quite thoughtful to send pillows, comforters, mattress pads, blankets or sheets; in fact we compiled a list of recommendations to prepare a bed for seniors. Your loved ones will be surprised and grateful.

Another way to keep in touch is to use digital apps to connect remotely: look, smile, speak ... you may offer gestures of attention from a distance. Physical isolation does not necessarily mean social isolation. The telephone, videoconferences, whatsapp groups… we now have many ways of staying in touch with isolated loved ones throughout the day.

Try to also write actual letters to your loved ones! Receiving mail has a beneficial effect for isolated people and can evoke fond memories of times past, when a letter was something to spend a bit of time with and make a considered response.

To maintain bonds with family and friends, and to avoid locking yourself in from fear of the virus, you must also continue to make plans. For the holidays, the next anniversary or birthday ... we must not give up on life and we must encourage isolated seniors in this regard.

Also, remember that people want to feel that they are needed, even when they need help themselves. Ask them for advice about a problem you are having.

Ideas for helping seniors during this quarantine:

  • Be attentive to your neighbor; being isolated does not have to mean being alone. Isolation can be particularly difficult for older people who have limited social life and for whom speaking with another person may be their only social interaction.
  • Find ways to stay in contact without physical contact.
  • Institute a code for neighbors, such as a red flag, t-shirt or towel in the window if they need help.
  • Be sure that those important to you and neighbors you are concerned about have your telephone and email information.
  • You can assist by doing groceries, taking the garbage out, helping with laundry.
  • Consider buying some fresh new bedding for them.
  • Cook some meals and leave them at their door. Make a cake, a homemade meal or their favorite treat.

It is important to put selflessness at the center of our social activities during the period of isolation. Rather than obsessing over the risks and drawbacks of the epidemic in our daily lives, it is better to actively devote our energy and exchanges to improving the situation of those close to us, or of vulnerable people in our circle.

And perhaps most importantly: maintain a positive perspective. Remind them that with every day that passes in quarantine we all approach the moment when we will be reunited with friends and family. This crisis is also an opportunity to relearn how to live together!

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