The current pandemic situation has been difficult for all of us. But, it is likely to be tougher for elderly adults. Health authorities have indicated that elderly adults aged 65 years and above, are at higher risk to be affected by COVID - 19. This leads to added mental stress during such times. Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Hence, along with physical health it becomes very important for us to protect mental health of our elderly family members.
Here is what you can do:
1) Forming a meaningful communication
The elderly have been informed to strictly isolate as much as possible. Isolation may result in loneliness to a vast extent. If you have elderly family members, make it a point that you form meaningful communication with them on a daily basis and are available for their emotional needs. Having said that, be an active listener whenever possible and provide information whenever asked for. If you are not staying with them, try to connect with them through video and audio calls at least twice a week making sure that they feel cared for and loved. Try to communicate in a language that they understand and keep a check on your tone. Also, if they get stuck while using gadgets to communicate with others, please guide them through it.
2) Developing a schedule
Mental health activities such as solving puzzles, reading out an article from the newspaper or favorite book/magazine, playing memory games, painting, practicing music, meditating, journaling, etc. are helpful in maintaining healthy cognitive processes. These activities are especially beneficial if you have an elderly family member with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.
Involving them in daily activities such as watering the plants, cleaning dishes, tidying the clothes cupboard, cleaning the vegetables, etc. can make them feel useful. A sense of purpose and meaning is a great remedy for anxiety and isolation. Plan a schedule for these activities of a minimum of 30 minutes a day. This time can be utilized at one stretch or divided across the day. Also, be a part of these activities as a companion or an aid if assistance is required.
3) Patience is the key
It is absolutely normal to get frustrated during a pandemic. When communicating with elderly family members, make sure not to vent out your frustrations on them. They may not process things as fast as others, however, with patience they may be able to carry out tasks. If assistance is required then please provide it. Remember to respect the capacity of your elderly family members and not push them to do things which are beyond it. Patience is always the answer.
4) Take care of your own self
Be compassionate towards yourself too. Sometimes, you may feel burnout. Take mini-breaks when you need them. Distribute responsibilities with other family members while practicing your own positive mental health strategies. A healthy mind will enable you to take care of your elder family members in a much better manner.
Remember that this emotional turmoil felt by the elderly is valid. It is very crucial to take care of their mental health as much as yours. In such times, let's not forget that together we can sail through this. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Take care.