Schedule Calls to Check on Your Elderly Relatives

Most of the country is embarking on a process of social distancing – if not completely isolating itself from the outside world – in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While this is important, especially for protecting the most vulnerable in our population, it also means that many of these vulnerable (namely the elderly) may soon begin to struggle with loneliness.

Many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities rightfully close their doors to visitors to do whatever they can to protect residents from COVID-19 . And those who live independently may want to close their doors for security reasons. But those who rely on regular face-to-face visits for socializing are likely to find the sudden isolation intolerable.

My own grandmother has been hospitalized in the last couple of months. Since then, my grandfather visited her every day, and she also usually had at least one other visitor a day, including my immediate family and some distant relatives in the area. But this is not possible now. So, in my family, we set up a schedule of phone calls.

My grandfather will continue to call her every day, and the rest of us – me, my mom, my brother, my aunt, my grandmother’s niece and nephew – have made an alternating call schedule. We think this will help her feel less isolated and more connected to her extended family without exhausting her by forcing too many conversations every day.

We manage our schedule with restraint; we have a group text that we frame the next few days. Anyone who speaks to her on any given day responds to the group with brief information about how she spoke on the phone or about new precautions being taken at the site.

We also need to consider older people in our lives, who usually do not have regular visitors. It’s time to call our neighbors and distant relatives or friends to check them and inform them that they are not alone.

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