In a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our whole world upside down. All across the globe families are concerned for their health, the health of their loved ones, and for the economy. We know that older adults are more vulnerable to COVID-19, meaning that this is a particularly anxious time for them. To support your elderly relatives during the pandemic, consider the following tips and resources.
Physical Health Tips
1 . Support to safely exercise
Retaining a good exercise regime is essential to maintain both physical and mental health. During these uncertain times, it’s helpful to support your elderly relatives to maintain a safe exercise regime. Arrange to meet them for a walk in the park, choosing a time that will not be busy, for example, the early morning. Help them to access apps so that they can do gentle exercise from home. Examples include the Daily Yoga app or the Silver Sneakers Go app. The Silver Sneakers app provides 4-12 week workout programs aimed at seniors. The program combines both home fitness options and classes.
2. Immune-boosting foods
Keeping the immune system strong is vital to fight off viruses and sickness. You can support your elderly relatives by encouraging them to eat an immune system boosting diet. Kale is a great food to boost the immune system; it’s full of nutrients plus vitamins C, K and A. The vitamin A content helps to keep the immune system healthy, while vitamin K can help to improve cognitive health. Fish is another excellent food to boost the immune system; it’s packed with vitamin D, omega-3 acids and antioxidants. For further ideas, try reading The 30-Minute Immune System Diet Plan by Connor Thompson. Here you’ll find plenty of tasty and easy to make recipes along with tips.
3. Supplements to support health
Supplements can help to give our immune systems an added boost; it can be helpful to offer your relative advice about health-boosting options. Many of us don’t get enough vitamin D, and yet it’s essential to the health of our immune systems. Taking vitamin D supplements can enhance the response of your white blood cells and decrease inflammation. Zinc supplements can be useful as zinc is necessary for immune cell development and response. While no supplements or diets have been associated with curing COVID-19, it doesn’t hurt to keep your immune system strong.
4. Modifications to the home
For many older adults, the pandemic means spending more time alone at home than usual. Another way that you can support your relatives is by modifying their home to make them more comfortable and safe. As we age, areas such as the bathroom can become more challenging to use. Installing a bath lift is a helpful adjustment; these come in various types, including portable bath lifts or battery-powered bath lifts. Stairlifts are useful for those with reduced mobility, and it’s also helpful to declutter the home to prevent trip hazards. Help your elderly relatives to declutter their home, and ensure that everything they need to reach is placed in low cupboards.
Mental Health Tips & Resources
1 . Mental health apps
You can support the mental health of an elderly relative by helping them to use a mental health application. Download an app onto their phone and spend plenty of time explaining how they can use the app. A few examples of useful mental health apps are:
- Moodfit: Moodfit is a self-proclaimed ‘fitness app for your mental health’. Individuals can use this application to deal with the symptoms of stress and to improve their mood. Moodfit uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, a gratitude journal and mindfulness exercises.
- Sanvello: The Sanvello app helps users to find relief from anxiety and stress. With the application users can access coping tools, meditations, guided journeys and stress-busting tips.
- Happify: The happify app is a fun application which uses games and quizzes to challenge negative thought patterns. For people of all ages, Happify is an excellent resource to set positive goals and boost your mood.
2 . Build a support network
Help your elderly relatives to build a support network so that they always have someone to talk to. There may be times when they are home alone and feel lonely. Arrange regular face-times with friends and family to keep them company. Ask their neighbours if they wouldn’t mind exchanging numbers or help your relative to join online support groups. Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends, and to safely leave the house for a walk, even if only once a day.
3. Endorphin boosting activities
The key to staying mentally healthy is plenty of activities that boost endorphins. Help your elderly relatives to enjoy activities such as gardening or arts and crafts. Activities like these will help to keep their spirits up. Whether it’s arranging socially distanced board game nights or a face-time quiz night, help your relatives to maintain their social connections.
4 . Mental health resource sites
For further mental health resources, here are some of the top websites offering mental health support info:
- Mental Health America: Mental Health America is an organization which is dedicated to offering mental health support and raising awareness. Users of the site can choose one of five options based on their current mental health state.
- The National Institute Of Mental Health: NIMH provide support and conduct research, their primary goal is to improve our understanding of mental health disorders. Here you’ll find a range of advice to support the mental health of your loved ones.
The pandemic is a difficult time for older adults; they are likely feeling vulnerable and anxious. The best thing that you can do is to create a safe space for them to talk about their emotions. Ensure they know that they are not alone and can contact you whenever they need to. To deal with anxiety, exercises such as yoga, aromatherapy, and journaling are all excellent ways to unwind.
General COVID-19 Tips
1 . Face Masks
It’s advisable to wear a face mask in public spaces such as on transport, in supermarkets or shopping centres. In some countries, mask-wearing in these settings is mandatory. Purchase your elderly relatives a few reusable face masks, ensuring that each is washed after use. According to the World Health Organization Guidelines, ‘People over 60 and people with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical-grade mask when they’re in public. The general public should wear a three-layer fabric mask in those situations.’
2. Hand Sanitizer
Frequent handwashing continues to be one of the essential guidelines of the pandemic. Make sure that your loved one has plenty of hand soap and hand sanitizing gel. Hand sanitizing gels are particularly useful for when out in public places. It’s also advisable to be more aware of the objects that you bring inside your home. According to a study on Healthline, COVID-19 can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard, for 3-7 days on plastic and for up to 4 days on paper. Advise your elderly relative to take extra care when bringing packages into their home.
3. Avoid Crowds
Throughout the pandemic, ensure that your relatives avoid crowded places. In overcrowded places, it’s far easier for COVID-19 to spread. Luckily, most supermarkets, and shops have enforced policies which reduce crowds. If your elderly relatives can avoid public transport altogether, this is highly advisable. As restaurants and shops have reopened, it’s tempting to start going out more. Regardless of this, it’s essential to keep your elderly relatives safe. Be mindful that they are more vulnerable during this pandemic.
4 . Social Distance
Social distancing continues to be an essential part of public safety. Ensure that you practice social distancing when you visit their home or when you meet up in an open space. Remember that many people will not display symptoms of COVID-19. It’s important to keep your distance even if you are convinced that you do not have the virus. As the pandemic goes on, it’s likely that social distancing will be with us for a long while.
Home Care Options
You likely provide your relative with plenty of support; however, it’s not always easy to fit care options around your work schedule. If your relative requires more frequent care, you might consider hiring a home caregiver. Many elderly people do not like the idea of living in a care home, and with a home-caregiver, they don’t have to. Hiring a home-caregiver for your relative will offer you peace of mind and allow them to keep their independence. Choosing the right senior care service can be a challenge, it’s vital to do your research and choose a reputable company.
To deal with uncertainty during the pandemic, it’s important to focus on the positives, though that’s not always easy. Make time for fun (socially distanced) family activities. If you have elderly neighbors without family nearby, it’s a good idea to invite them into your support network. You could do this by providing them with your telephone number and offering to deliver them groceries if they need it.