Now that the entire world has been quarantined and isolated for weeks at a time, can we talk about how our parents may have been isolated for months before the world-wide shut down?
Have you ever used the phrase “My mom/dad is a real homebody? They love puttering around the house.” If I had told you a year ago that you would have the opportunity to putter around your own home and really get a way from it all for a while, you might have really gotten excited.
Hmmm, not so exciting anymore as the pandemic lingers on.
As you may have noticed, I like to use musical references in my presentations. I can’t think of a better one to describe the way my life has been lately than a classic Billy Idol tune.
“So let’s sink another drink
Cause it’ll give me time to think
If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance
And I’ll be dancin’ with myself”
Sheltering In Place Presents Challenges
There are physical and mental challenges for all people sheltering in place – both young and old, sick or well, mentally strong or cognitively challenged. These challenges around social isolation and loneliness will continue after the pandemic is abated. There are some old-fashioned ways you can help your parents, during pandemic or post-pandemic, keep the loneliness demons away and to learn to dance with yourself.
“there is a difference between living alone and loneliness”
Remember, there is a difference between living alone and loneliness. Humans need to see, discuss, and physically touch friends. Life now can feel more like survival. Life for an isolated senior adult has always been about survival. Loneliness is not just a feeling. Just like hunger warns you to find food and thirst warns you to find water: loneliness warns you to find human connection. Connections are essential for survival.
7 Simple Ways To Help You Stay Connected With Your Elderly Loved One
- It’s a Hallmark moment: Get back to basics. Send a greeting card(s), write a letter (not an email), send flowers.
- Speak flowers: If you are physically close to your parents, go plant some flowers near a window so they can see them (and you, in the dirt!).
- Pick up the phone: Set a regular time for a phone call, Facetime or video chat. Talk about the mundane. Discuss politics. Chit chat about the weather. Reminisce over a holiday. Tell a joke. Gossip about your cousin. The point is, just call and stay in touch.
- Start a family book club: Find a book that the entire family would enjoy. Set a regular time to discuss the book as a family by conference call, or the ever-present Zoom meeting.
- Let your parents put your children to bed: Ask them to tell your child a story about something fun, scary, funny that happened to them when they were a child, or read them a story from a book.
- Go to the movies: Netflix Party allows you to set up a group watch for a movie and it includes a chat feature so you can talk about the movie while it is playing. The best part? No one will shush you for talking at the theatre.
- Dance like no one is watching: If you have Zoom or Google Meet, set up a time with your parent, put on some music and get everyone to virtually dance together.
Science Doesn’t Lie
"Social isolation may increase mortality rates by up to 29%”
In a 2015 report from Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Brigham Young University, it was found that social isolation led to an increase rate of mortality. The study analyzed seventy studies, involving 3.4 million people. The results indicated that social isolation increased the rate of mortality by twenty-nine per cent and living alone increased mortality by thirty-two per cent—no matter the subject’s age, gender, location, or culture. Other studies show that prolonged social isolation is as detrimental to your health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and can prompt cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, or premature death. Isolation can cause a forty-per-cent increase in the risk of dementia.
Use your imagination and come up with your own simple ways to stay connected. Remember that part of this exercise is to keep an eye on your loved one. Regularly staying in contact allows everyone to be engaged and social but it also gives you the ability to watch for the warning signs that loneliness is taking an unhealthy toll on you parent.
Senior Care Authority of New York and Southwest Florida can help you place your loved one living alone into a community where they can be social, eat great food and have someone around 24/7 to make sure they are alright. There are so many choices these days in senior assisted living, with all levels of care. We will help guide you and find the perfect one for your loved one that fits their needs, lifestyle and budget. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and find out about all the possibilities.