The world hasn’t faced a pandemic challenge like COVID-19 in multiple generations—including that of our country’s senior citizens.
The shutdown of businesses, schools, and other institutions is a measure that our grandparents never had to abide by, even in their younger ages when medical treatments weren’t as developed as they are now.
COVID-19 has been difficult and fearful for the older community. Medical experts have identified seniors as particularly susceptible to the worst cases of the coronavirus, especially those with pre-existing health conditions. The shutdown has also limited physical contact with their families and friends.
Three months after many states enacted those shutdowns, they’re now lifting their stay-at-home orders, at least gradually.
Social distancing suggestions remain in effect, but some of the shutdown’s strictest requirements—especially as they pertain to businesses, churches, and some large gatherings—are, for now, easing.
Undoubtedly, many of us are excited about the prospect of revisiting our senior loved ones after several months.
But how safe are they?
Enthusiasm for the end of stay-at-home orders is high but concerns about the pandemic remain very much in force. As eager as we are to end our loved ones’ loneliness and re-establish those family connections, anxiety over the risks of spreading COVID-19 remains strong.
We all miss our extended families. We’ve found alternate means of communication to keep those bonds intact. How do we make the transition back to personal contact in the safest way possible? Here are some steps to consider.
Keep up with experts in the medical community
Doctors, nurses, surgeons, and first responders have served on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis for over half a year. Their jobs require them to stay updated on health aspects of the coronavirus, especially those that haven’t been relayed to the general public. Many other medical experts and consultants also keep up on the ever-changing and developing issues surrounding COVID-19.
These medical professionals should be your first source of information as stay-at-home orders are lifted. Your family physician has certainly made the latest COVID-19 developments part of their daily routine, and it’s quite likely they’ve treated patients themselves. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also stays updated on the latest news, as well as suggestions for the responsible easing of stay-at-home orders with your older relatives.
Seek out responsible information
We are, of course, in an age where information is transmitted immediately—especially misinformation.
As with any news story with a profound impact, some individuals and organizations have unspoken agendas and reasons for propagating incomplete facts or conspiracy theories, especially on social media. Even major media companies present misleading or incomplete information, often from individuals who are labeled as “experts.”
Be extra vigilant about these sources of information. Many times, they do offer valuable and correct details, but many times they’re only trying to provoke your reaction. When it comes to visiting your loved ones, be deliberate and meticulous about the intelligence you’re getting. Again, everyday medical professionals will not steer you wrong.
Consider the pros and cons
Visits with older relatives, especially grandparents, set up a deep and necessary personal bond. Physical gatherings and contact are necessary elements of family relationships. For many older ones, these connections are crucial for their emotional and psychological well-being.
These relationships have been tested under the COVID-19 pandemic—but even as state shutdowns rescind, there’s still a risk of transmitting the coronavirus that needs to be considered when planning interactions with our older relatives.
Weigh all the factors that relate to your older loved ones’ situations. Are still-relevant precautions like face masks or social distancing manageable during your visit? Are alternative contact methods like web-conferencing still workable options? Is your older relative in physical health that’s good enough to accommodate personal visits? Think carefully about every factor that goes into the decision.
Talk to your family
Even with restrictions in place, the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the need for communication.
This is certainly true with talking to our families and loved ones, and especially poignant for the seniors in our lives. The decision to re-establish face-to-face contact should come from honest discussions with all family members. Talk about your priorities as an extended family, your overall risks, and the best time and situation to re-engage with older relatives in person.
Leave your options open
Finally, remember that, even if the world has been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, we’re all still learning about it. The pandemic is still a very fluid situation, with concerns about future waves and the eventual availability of a vaccine.
Given those concerns, stay flexible when it comes to visiting your older family members. If they live in an assisted facility, regulations for visiting families may be shifted or re-instituted in the next few months. If preventative measures prove strenuous or impractical, consider keeping in contact with online methods.
All of us have been affected by the isolation, loneliness, and detachment that’s part of the COVID-19 shutdowns, none as much as our parents, grandparents, and older extended family members. The relaxing of stay-at-home orders is a welcome event—but it’s up to us to make sure resumption of physical contact remains as safe as we can make it.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.