Much of the country is beginning the process of social distancing—if not all-out isolating themselves from the outside world—in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And while it’s important to do this, particularly to protect the most vulnerable in our population, it also means many of those vulnerable (namely, the elderly) may soon be battling loneliness.
Many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are rightfully closing their doors to visitors to do their best to protect residents from COVID-19. And those who live independently may be choosing to shut their own doors for safety’s sake. But those who rely on regular in-person visits for companionship are likely to find the sudden isolation overwhelming.
My own grandmother went into a full-time care facility within the past couple of months. Since then, my grandfather has visited her every day and she’s also usually had at least one other visitor per day, including my immediate family and some extended family members in the area. But now, that’s not possible. So in my family, we’ve set up a phone call schedule.
My grandfather will continue to call her every day and the rest of us—me, my mum, my brother, my aunt and my grandmother’s niece and nephew—have created a rotating call schedule. We think this will help her feel less isolated and more connected to the larger family, without exhausting her by inundating her with too many conversations each day.
We’re managing the schedule in a low-key way; we have a group text in which we schedule out the next few days. Whoever talks to her on any given day responds to the group with a brief update about how she sounded on the phone or new safety precautions being implemented at the facility.
We should also consider the elderly people in our lives who don’t typically have regular visitors. Now is the time to call our neighbours and extended family members or friends to check on them and let them know they’re not alone.