One of the many parts of life that COVID-19 has made worse is the loneliness that many residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere have been feeling.
For some, these feelings aren’t necessarily new – they can already be part of someone’s world if family, loved ones, or neighbors have moved away or passed away in the last few years. They may be receiving hospice care as well which can add to the feelings of sadness and isolation. But at least it used to be easier to keep up on social interactions, which now must be put on hold or done in different ways.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are familiar with how things are different now as far as how and where we connect with others.
Many of our clients are in similar situations regarding going out and being social: they are reluctant to visit many places for too long, and they’re also reluctant to have people come over to visit.
It’s understandable. Although we’re still learning a lot about COVID-19, we do know that the elderly and those in poor health are not only vulnerable to catching it, they are also more likely to experience serious, even fatal, cases of it.
While precautions can be taken, such as wearing masks and gloves, trying to stay a certain distance away from people, and washing your hands regularly, there’s still a lot of uncertainty, especially when outside the walls of your own home. For instance, people who may not take the same precautions as you can spread it, as well as people who don’t know they have it.
Though people in the same “unit,” like direct household/family members or roommates, generally stay together and don’t have to wear masks around each other, the people they interact with less often, such as a grandparent on the other side of town, are still encouraged to keep their distance.
And it’s not just COVID either – seniors are also at higher risk for contracting other “normal” pre-pandemic conditions like the flu, pneumonia, even the common cold. All of these can be bad for their health. Some may even require hospitalization which would also increase the possibility of COVID exposure. Although shots can help with some of these, staying away from others still seems like a good preventable precaution.
Plus, there’s the mental health perspective as well: too much isolation can lead to depression, which could affect all aspects of someone’s life, from their appetite to sleep cycles. Going out and exercising can help, but still being able to connect safely is a bigger help.
Ways to interact
Once you start thinking creatively there are several possible solutions to interact with others but do so safely. These tips also can help with National Shut-In Visitation Day, which is celebrated on February 11 this year.
- Go outside. Get your chairs and bundle up. You don’t have to worry about your indoor space being full of aerosolized particles going into the air. Even though it’s cold outside, you can still have a cool-weather get-together but keep your distance. Consider a fire pit that everyone can gather around to stay toasty but not too close. You can even combine it with barbecuing dinner or s’mores but also keep people out of your home.
- Use window visits. Some retirement communities are using this method where a visitor is on one side of the window the resident is on the other. It’s not ideal but you can still hear and see each other and have a good conversation – think of the window as a big sneezeguard! Even if a window can’t open you can still talk through your phones or computers, or hold up posters. Seeing people wave can boost everyone’s spirits.
- Online video chat. If you’ve been holding off on “Zoom”, “Skype” or some of those other video methods because you’re scared they’re too complicated, don’t be! More and more people are using them, more people are understanding how to use them. Even better, they can explain it better to those who aren’t technically savvy. You do need a mobile phone or computer. Some services, such as FaceTime, which comes with iPhones, allow you to have one-to-one video calls. Others let you bring in just about anyone. So you potentially can arrange a virtual family reunion without anyone having to leave their living rooms.
- Movie nights. Miss going to the movies with your friends but don’t want to go into a crowded theater with strangers? Some impacted cinemas are now showing movies on the side of the theater exterior or setting up screens in empty lots – essentially re-creating the drive-in experience. If you’re comfortable with people in your car, masked or unmasked, bring a group. Or drive solo and your family can park next door and you can put both of your phones on speaker to supply conversation commentary.
People are becoming very adaptive to these conditions because we do miss human interaction. Maybe you can come up with some other safe ways to interact.