How to take care of the elderly when the coronavirus has made it impossible to see them? – Quartz
For anyone with older relatives or friends – this includes anyone with parents or grandparents over the age of around 65 – and especially those who play a caregiving role in a person’s life elderly, the coronavirus presents a terrible dilemma. How do we make sure the seniors we love are doing well, while staying away so as not to put them in danger? When we know our loved ones are vulnerable to loneliness as well as illness, how can we reconcile their need for us with the sudden imperative of isolation?
A broken link
In many ways, the intergenerational bond of love that exists between adult children and parents, and between children and grandparents, is what makes us who we are.
“Human evolution involved only both a prolonged childhood – twice as long as our closest primate relatives – and a prolonged period of old age of 50 to 70 years, especially postmenopausal grandmothers, who are very rare among animal species, ”wrote Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, Calif., in an email. “These older people could both provide help and resources to our particularly helpless children in their time of learning and impart cultural knowledge – a particularly important characteristic of human cognition.
Parents who work across cultures often depend on their own parents for supplemental childcare, but this is just the latest manifestation of our species’ dependence on our elders.
In addition to the nostalgia and practical need we have for our elders, there is a real fear that in our globalized and technology-driven world, the elderly will be. more and more isolated anyway. It’s no wonder that many of us feel helpless, guilty and afraid both for our older loved ones and for ourselves. And it’s also no wonder that so many older people feel anxious.
The advice, however, is clear. Whenever possible, older people – who are at higher risk for complications and death from coronavirus – should keep contact with others to an absolute minimum. Ideally, they should stay home, have no visitors, have groceries and medications delivered, and go out for no reason other than solitary exercise or medical necessity. (Guidelines vary slightly by country; these are specifically UK advice for those over 70.)
Many relationships have therefore shifted exclusively to voice calls and a range of video chat options that can be particularly useful for children hooking up with older people or for those with dementia-related issues. (Although bad, in my own experience, for people who have trouble hearing or quickly mastering new technologies.)
Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, a nonprofit that works to bridge generational divides, said that amid all the online connection ideas he’s suggesting to seniors, when it comes to keeping in touch, calling is a brilliant substitute for meeting in person – as anyone who lives far from older loved ones already knows. It could be a regular, long call – which suddenly became easier to organize because so many social plans were canceled – or a very short, very regular recording. (An informal survey of Quartz staff found that many people now call their parents every day and the nature of conversations is changing accordingly – perhaps moving high-level updates on work or family to kind of chattering more usual in relationships of people who live together or see each other all the time, a change that seems both ironic and sweet.)
Grandparents are also enlisted to teach children skills via video chat, an arrangement that maintains connection while helping parents, many of whom now have children at home all day since schools and daycares closed. . Sanam Vakil, deputy director and senior researcher for the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House in London, spends her daughters, ages 8 and 10, an hour a day with each of their grandmothers. A grandmother, who is Iranian and based in the United States, will teach them Art and Persian. The other, based in Italy, teaches Italian.
Other ways to connect
Freedman also encourages older people trapped at home to find other ways to connect with communities. In times of isolation this is of course much more difficult, as neighborhood talks and physical meeting places are impossible.
Encore has compiled a list of volunteer opportunities that can be both trained and fulfilled online, and since the mission of the organization is intergenerational blending, most of them focus on bringing young people and people together. less young. Create the Good offers a range of volunteer opportunities for senior Americans, while Careervillage displays questions from young people that professionals or retirees can then answer. Still has a full list focused on the United States on his blog.
In addition to volunteering, “there are lots of online exercise and meditation classes, webinars, focus groups, book conferences, and free classes available online,” Freedman said. Seniors may need help navigating to the resources available for their particular area or interest, most of which can be done remotely.
Freedman also pointed out that for the first time, a large number of young people, due to the current restrictions in place on movement and socialization, are beginning to understand the isolation that many of their elders face all the time. And that in itself could be transformative.
“We all develop a deeper empathy for those who are isolated most of the time. Suddenly millions of us are forced to experience the kind of loneliness that has been reserved for a much smaller number, ”he said. “When all of this is over, our experiences of social distancing should reinforce the appreciation of the face-to-face connection. We will see that the virtual connection is better than nothing, but it is not a substitute for the real thing. “
Sometimes it will be impossible to go from one day to the next seeing an elderly person not seeing them – for example, if you have so far been the caregiver who has taken care of daily needs like getting dressed, taking a bath and eat. If it is impossible not to see a vulnerable person, there are tips on how to protect them from guidelines on living with vulnerable people.
If your relationship is going to be from a distance, however, there are other little ways to try and add moments of joy.
Letters, cards, books and articles can all be sent easily by post. Several companies now offer flower delivery services in buds, which fit into a letterbox. Physical photographs can also be posted, along with photos and videos shared online, or try a smart photo screen that other family members can upload to as well.
For anyone caring for an elderly person with dementia, things are more complicated. Here are some ideas on how to handle the sudden distance.