Just when we need each other more, we’re being forced apart
The battle to stop the spread of COVID19 is poised to dramatically increase the risk for loneliness, says 19th U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Social distancing, while a vital strategy to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, can worsen people’s sense of isolation.
“We find ourselves with a silent but common challenge of loneliness that people are struggling with all over the country and all over the world. And now on top of that, we're being asked to pull back from life-sustaining interactions with other people,”
Each day, as numbers affected by the worldwide pandemic escalate, one thing is clear: no matter where they live, the elderly face the highest risk.
“The brunt of COVID-19 will be borne by the poor, elderly, and sick, and it is up to us to ensure they are not left behind,” former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
According to a 2012 study from the United Kingdom, seniors die of the usual causes, but isolation is one of the main risk factors that worsen preexisting conditions.
Loneliness more harmful than a Pandemic
Loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Because of their age and a higher prevalence of comorbid conditions, individuals over the age of 65 are considered to be especially at risk for complications related to COVID-19. But during the current pandemic, these older members of the population are also at a higher risk of succumbing to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Simple things to make life worthwhile for the elderly?
Put them First
Tip: minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time, but when done consistently that small amount of time can make a big difference in how connected we feel.
Don’t get caught in bad news
It's tough to empathize if you are depressed. Dial down distractions and give undivided attention to people. “The cost to our relationships is significant. It impacts the quality of the interaction, and ultimately the quality of the relationship.
“We can call a neighbor ...and check on them to make sure they're doing okay. We can drop food off to somebody,” Murthy says. “We can write to people to let them know ... that we know, that they're going through a tough time and that we're thinking of them. These are small but powerful ways in which we can seek to serve others.”
At Fellowship, “to keep people’s spirits up, to keep them entertained and connected, we converted one of our spaces to a studio where we stream live activities and events and programming to an in-house channel that goes throughout the community.
We’re streaming religious services, entertainment, lectures, any type of content we can. We put out a schedule. We’re always looking to add to it. To ensure people have something to look forward, something to enjoy besides watching tv all the time,” noted Lawrence who runs a care home.
On the brightside, so many individuals and organizations, musicians, artists, have come forward, streaming their performances online. Countless museums offer virtual tours. Churches, synagogues, and temples are streaming their religious services.
Fitness classes have even been thrown into the mix.
Teach the technology.
The writer’s mother went from having no cell phone a few years ago, to an iPhone, mini iPad, and a second full-size iPad.If they are not familiar, walk them through new devices and tablets and programs and apps and streaming services. There are also online resources. SeniorNet and U3A.Online .
Apps like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and Skype can help them to feel connected.
Pick up the phone.
The landline (Yes! These do still exist.) Text messages just aren’t the same. Use the phone every day, on a regular basis, to call your older loves ones, even your older neighbors just to check in, even if it’s just to say hi.
Most of all, listen.
“We need to try to understand this from their perspective, and hear their voices to tell us what they need,” stated Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the Division of General Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor of health care policy at the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.
“In many ways, this crisis may serve to deepen connections between generations and across communities.”
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