Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Friday, June 12, 2020

“Lean on Me” in This Time of Uncertainty

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a few short months since the coronavirus claimed its first life here in our great nation.  It seems much longer, doesn’t it?  Since then, we have been bombarded with a lot of negative news, and through this experience we have become self-taught epidemiology “experts”. We are learning a lot of new medical terminology: acronyms like PPE (personal protective equipment), and words like asymptomatic (not showing symptoms), as we drink from a fire hose of information about this pandemic.

Bob Roth
Make no mistake, COVID-19 is serious, with the elderly being the most vulnerable.  With all the uncertainty in the world due to this virus, there is no better time  to show the world the power of our great nation, and that power lies with us, the people of the United States of America.

For some of us, a stay at home mandate offers a great opportunity to get closer to our family members, partners and roommates.  However, for many  that are living alone, a time like this  can make for an extremely lonely existence.  Did you know that approximately 33% of our elderly population (65+) lives home alone?  According to Joseph Coughlin and the MIT Age Lab this number may eclipse the 50% mark over the next 15 years.  Loneliness is a significant challenge with this pandemic, and with our older adult population this can be extremely dangerous.  How do we keep them engaged? How do we ensure they are getting what they need?   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges that we all practice self-isolation and social distancing to protect ourselves.  However, the same isolation that could save the elderly from coronavirus could also have a dramatically negative effect.  A 2015 study found that prolonged isolation can have the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The emphasis for social distancing should be centered on the word “social.”  How do we keep our aging loved ones engaged?  So many are feeling socially disconnected.

Here are 9 things you can do to keep your aging loved ones, neighbors and friends from feeling  isolated.
  1. Help with keeping them socially engaged
    Check in  regularly. If they are comfortable using technology, you can video conference with Facetime or Zoom, or simply send text messages and emails.  Sometimes nothing beats the old-fashioned practice of picking up the phone and giving them a call.  If you’re cooking, make a little extra and offer a dish to them; put it in a disposable container, use a disinfectant wipe to sanitize the outside of the container, and leave a thoughtful note.
  2. Help with food and essentials
    Lots of nonperishable items have disappeared from stores, especially hand sanitizers and toilet paper. Consider shopping for them while doing your own, or help them set up a revolving delivery from the grocery store.
  3. Help with medications
    Offer to pick up prescriptions or  set up ongoing delivery. In some cases you can order prescriptions in 90-day quantities to eliminate the need to worry about running out.  Many of our seniors have trouble remembering to take medications; you can ask the pharmacy to pre-package medications in blister packs with designations for morning and evening. You can also call to remind them to take their medications.
  4. Help with health care appointments
    It is amazing how many medical practices have embraced the use of either phone or video conference appointments (telehealth). This is a safe way to visit your doctor during the pandemic. If  you are a family member or have power of attorney for medical decision-making, you could also participate in these appointments. Should the older person urgently need an in-person evaluation, phone ahead for them, report symptoms and ask for instructions as to next steps.
  5. Engage the grandchildren
    With schools closed for the time being, your children could help an older adult learn something new about today’s technology, whether it be a laptop or a TV remote. Or they might send emails to grandparents or elderly neighbors to chat about what they’re doing, or ask them to participate online in virtual classrooms, symphonies or museums. Best of all, your children could use this time to record some family history.
  6. Connect with trusted organizations
    Remote-volunteer for local organizations serving older adults. Many of these agencies, stretched thin, may prefer financial support. Many provide meals for seniors and are delivering during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Consider helping out by purchasing pre-paid gas cards to support the drivers.
  7. For dementia care partners
    If you know someone caring for a person with dementia, reach out to them. Many of them occasionally use adult day care, but during this outbreak these facilities are now unavailable. Any support groups they normally attend might not be in session either, and the lack of services may increase their stress. Assist them by setting up phone or video conferencing with other dementia care partners to strategize on ways to cope.
  8. Encourage activity
    While some of our aging loved ones may be isolated in their own homes, this does not preclude them from moving.  If they are watching television, they can get up during every commercial and do an active chore. If possible, taking a walk outside is a great way to stay active and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and sunshine.
  9. Go on a news diet
    Stay informed and know what’s going on but don’t get locked into endlessly watching “breaking news” on the 24-hour news channels. Typically, not much changes hour to hour. But enduring the repetitious pummeling from TV all day long can bring needless anxiety. Watch a news update in the morning, then check in again at night. Don’t stay with it all evening — 30 minutes or an hour is plenty.
Music is a powerful way to elicit positive emotions. Help grandchildren or neighbors make playlists that resonate with them.  With the unfortunate passing of music legend Bill Withers recently, I can’t help but feel that his hit “Lean on Me” is a great tribute for how we need to come together to help lift up our family, friends, neighbors and community.  We are all in this together and together we will beat this virus.   If everyone does their part we can surely blunt the virus curve, get through to the other side, and life can get back to some semblance of normal again.  

About the Author

Bob Roth is Managing Partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions. Bob assisted in creating Cypress HomeCare Solutions with his family in 1994. With nearly 35 years of consumer products, health care and technology experience, Bob has successfully brought the depth and breadth of his experience to the home care trade and in doing so, Cypress HomeCare Solutions has been honored to receive a number of awards over the years. Bob hosts a radio show called “Health Futures, Taking Stock in You.” This program airs every Friday from Noon to 1:00 pm on Money Radio 1510 AM, 105.3 FM. In addition, he writes a monthly column called “Aging Today” for the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, and Lovin Life after 50 newspapers. In March 2017 Bob was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. In 2019 Bob was selected the winner for the Home Health Care News Future Leader Award - Recognizing up-and-coming leaders elevating the home health industry.