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5 Ways Family Caregivers Can Combat Senior Loneliness During Social Isolation

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As the coronavirus continues, many seniors are forced to distance themselves from close family members and friends, as they’re at higher risk for developing serious health complications.

With this comes a series of challenges for seniors who may feel disconnected from their regular routine. When this happens, social isolation sets in and they may exhibit feelings of loneliness that are harmful to overall health.

In fact, the risks of prolonged social isolation are equivalent to the dangers of obesity, smoking and a lack of healthcare.

As someone who provides care and comfort for your aging loved one, it’s important—now more than ever—for you and your family to combat feelings of social isolation through meaningful connection.

Below are five ways family caregivers can help seniors lessen feelings of loneliness during social distancing, even if you can’t be physically present.

1. Encourage Exercise

With recent closings of recreation centers, many seniors have to find alternate ways to stay active. While some seniors may choose to hit pause on their workout routine, encourage your loved one to keep up with their exercise.

Exercising is a great way to boost your loved one’s balance, flexibility and strength, which in turn has a positive impact on their body image. Not only will they look good, but they’ll also feel good—senior exercise prevents chronic illnesses, improves mood and reduces the chances of injury.

If possible, encourage them to go for walks around their neighborhood to get out of the house. While practicing safe social distancing, your loved one can interact with others they pass along the way.

Sometimes a simple hello can make their day.

2. Try Something New 

When was the last time your loved one did something for the first time? When seniors try something new, they open themselves up to newfound possibilities and passions.

And with more time on their hands due to coronavirus, seniors can choose how they want to spend their day. So whether it’s learning a language or playing an instrument, your loved one can try something new to keep their mind active.

Studies show seniors who engage in lifelong learning feel happier and healthier because they feel a sense of accomplishment. Beyond that, learning new skills is said to contribute to improved memory function in seniors. 

Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, they can take or teach a class, where they can meet new friends.

>>>Related resource: 7 Activities for Seniors During Social Isolation

3. Promote a Sense of Normalcy

It’s important that family caregivers provide seniors with a sense of normalcy. Part of that involves keeping up with their schedule. 

If the senior you care for is religious, give them the means to virtually attend Sunday service at their place of worship. Many religious institutions are live-streaming services, so members can keep up with weekly practices. In addition to attending services, your senior loved one will be able to connect with other members online through comments and messages.

Seniors with meaningful relationships are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of isolation, so be supportive and help them continue to partake in activities that keep them busy.

4. Prioritize Family Members and Friends 

With stay-at-home orders in place, many families are unable to gather for birthdays, holidays and more. But, it’s important for families to find ways to connect, as traditions—both new and old—strengthen family bonds. They also offer a sense of comfort during times of change.

When possible, make time for the whole family by finding activities that are fun for everyone involved. Schedule virtual visits using video, create an online book club or play a game together online. The goal is to provide your senior with meaningful social interaction.

5. Dive Into Technology 

Does your loved one struggle to use their cellphone or computer? Whether it’s showing them how to call, email, text or use video, now is the time to help them understand how it works, so they can stay connected with family members and friends. 

Strive to make the process as simple as possible with basic instructions that anyone could follow. Avoid complicated terminology that will confuse them.

To increase their confidence in technology, have them practice with you. Start by having them send a photo via text. Then, test their ability to include an attachment in an email.

Teaching them how to use technology can be a very effective tool in reducing social isolation and increasing connectedness.  

Get Access to Even More Senior Resources

Senior isolation is a growing problem. However, there are several resources to help seniors lead happy, healthy lives. In an effort to support the selfless work of family caregivers, we created The Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Family Caregivers. Download our complimentary guide for information on how to provide the highest quality of care for your senior loved one.

Download our family caregiver guide

Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.

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