16th November 2020
Taking care of loved ones from afar
Staying connected while social distancing can be especially important for older family members and loved ones.
As we acclimate to a new (but temporary) normal in this time of uncertainty, and as we head into the winter months, many families are being forced to adjust their way of living. There are around 5.4 million people in England who provide unpaid care for a friend or family member. If parents and grandparents are in assisted living or a care home, they most likely are not allowed visitors. Families must shift how they are communicating with and helping their older loved ones, who may rely on them for social interaction, coordinating medical appointments, food deliveries, food preparation and other help around the house.
“Social distancing” is recommended by both the Government and the NHS, but studies have shown that isolation can have a negative effect on the health of older adults. Stay connected with loved ones from afar using video chat capabilities. FaceTime, Skype and Google Duo are just a few options. However, sometimes just a message can go a long way, Whatsapp groups are a great way to maintain frequent contact. For those family members who aren’t as technologically savvy, consider setting up a call schedule with family and loved ones. Designate one person to check in every day, or whatever frequency you decide, to keep them connected to the people they love. Or more simply, consider sending a postcard or letter, apps like TouchNote are quick, simple and do the hard work for you.
Netflix may be new to some older adults, and now is the perfect time to show them the plethora of streaming options available at home. Set up online games they can play with friends and loved ones, and show them the digital library available via online libraries like Kindle and Apple Books. Museums, galleries, theatres and more from across the world have been moving online as well, allowing users to access digital tours and musical performances from their homes. There are also many online resources for learning a new skill, taking educational courses, trying challenging recipes or taking up a new hobby.
For elderly people, many of whom are considered vulnerable, the Government recommends staying home, including for food shopping. The Government have published this advice on options available for those who are unable to leave home. All the major supermarkets are prioritising delivery slots for those who are clinically vulnerable. Alternatively, services like AmazonFresh and Ocado will bring the groceries to their door (remember to ask for drop-off without social contact). Ordering from Deliveroo, JustEat or Uber Eats can help support their favourite local restaurant and allow them to take a break from cooking.
The NHS have made changes to ensure it’s safe for you to be seen if you need medical care during coronavirus. This includes getting medical help online or over the phone. This may be new for some older adults and they may need your help in setting it up or coordinating care. If you’re registered with a GP you can use online services that allow you to order repeat prescriptions, see parts of your health record, including test results and book, check or cancel appointments. If you do need to speak to a clinician, bear in mind you may not be able to book an appointment as you once could. Find your GP surgery for more information.
For those who may be in need of an emergency contingency plan, for example if you become unwell and other options aren’t available, you can contact the local Carers UK organisation for more information and support. However, if support is something you are able to give, there are plenty of contact-free ways of doing so during this time. Covid mutual aid groups are popping up across the UK, giving you the opportunity to help others in a variety of ways, from dropping off supplies to making time for a friendly phone call; find your local group here. Alternatively, why not use some of your spare time to get in touch with a local care home and write a letter to a resident who is unable to see loved ones – after all, little things often go a long way.
Below are some more useful links to help you and your loved ones navigate this new normal:
The Campaign to End Loneliness
NHS Loneliness in the elderly: how to help
Mental Health Foundation