Adult children, caregivers, and medical professionals are finding they need to educate senior citizens about COVID-19 and specific safety measures that need to be taken during the current pandemic.
Not all older adults – generally considered those who are 60 or older – will need help understanding what is happening with the virus and why it’s important to be socially distant or quarantined. Others, including some of those who need home nursingand other regions, are confused about what is happening and what to do during this unprecedented time.
These tips for talking to senior citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak will be useful for anyone who is helping an older adult right now.
Ask Senior Citizens What They Know About COVID-19 First
Before beginning to tell the elderly what you know about the virus, ask them what they know. They may know more accurate information than you realize. Or, they may have learned inaccurate information that you didn’t know you needed to correct.
By asking questions before giving information, you’ll understand the older person’s fears about coronavirus as well as their knowledge of dangers and safety measures.
Emphasize The Risk Of The Virus To Older Adults
It’s clear that it’s not only older adults who are at risk of being infected with COVID-19 or that they are the only ones who may develop complications due to it. However, some factors make the older population, in general, more at risk than those who are younger.
As people age, their immune system naturally declines. Because of this, even an older adult who doesn’t have a chronic health problem is in a higher risk category. Those with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer are in an even higher risk category.
Because of this, older adults need to continue to be moving at a pace that’s safe for them throughout their time of quarantine. Talk to the elderly about the safe exercises they can do to keep them as healthy as possible while still being physically distant from others.
Stick To Facts Not Fears When Speaking To Seniors About The COVID-19 Pandemic
While it’s important to acknowledge and address a senior’s fears, if they’ve expressed them, it’s imperative not to add to those fears by talking about your own concerns. Stick to the facts.
Explain to the elderly how the virus spreads, relying on trusted sources to get that information, such as the CDC’s information about coronavirus spread.
Then explain the measures that need to be taken to slow the spread. Talk about the need to stay socially distant from others and the personal care measures that need to be taken – washing hands frequently, keeping hands away from your face, disinfecting surfaces, etc.
Another way to quell fear is to encourage senior citizens to stop constantly reading about the virus and to turn off news channels that have 24/7 coverage of the pandemic, statistics on those infected and those who are hospitalized and those who have died. Once a senior citizen knows about the virus and the steps they can take to minimize exposure to it, the rest of the information about the virus is not helpful to keep them safe.
Also, explain why non-urgent medical appointments like annual check-ups, dental cleanings, and eye exams need to be postponed and that it is okay to delay them. Explain that their doctors understand, want to keep them safe, and won’t charge them for rescheduling these appointments.
Talk About How Social Distancing Will Change Their Day-To-Day Routines For A While
The term social isolation has been used a lot during this pandemic, but isolation can be a worrisome word for senior citizens who sometimes already feel isolated. Focus on the term social distancing or physical distancing.
Day-to-day routines will change for many seniors during this time. They will not be getting visits from family and friends as they usually would, nor will they be going out visiting. While home health aides may still come to their home, other helpers such as those who clean their home will also be practicing social distancing and will not be coming by. Explain why and emphasize that this is temporary.
On the flip side, talk about how senior citizens who are in quarantine can spend time with other people through technology. Making and receiving phone calls and video chats, watching live streams of musicians and other digital methods of connecting will help them to feel less isolated.
These conversations may be frustrating for adult children, caregivers, and medical professionals who are facing their own adversities during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this last thing is vital to remember when speaking to the elderly about keeping safe during a pandemic – speak with patience and empathy. This can be a scary time for a senior citizen who is confused about why life has changed so quickly.
COVID-19 And The Budwig Center
At the Budwig Center, we are continually monitoring the situation, and we are collaborating with the local health authorities. Currently, we are offering treatments only by appointment and to a limited number of patients to minimize the risk of contagion. Thus, ensuring there are no crowds in any area of the clinic at one time.
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