The world’s new normal is physical and social distancing, which means staying at home as much as possible. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has overcome the world spreading viciously and faster than any virus or disease our modern world has experienced. Physical distancing is necessary right now, but it’s increased anxiety, social isolation, depression.
It is especially difficult for those who are struggling with physical and mental health disorders. “As social beings, we are biologically hardwired to connect. Research shows supportive networks can decrease our heart rate and help us process difficult emotions,” says couples and family counsellor Carole Sandy.
My grandma was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which quickly left her unable to care for herself and live independently with my eighty-six-year-old grandfather anymore. She moved into a nursing home in February after living with my grandpa for over sixty-two years, and my grandpa temporarily moved into Princess Margaret hospital to undergo radiation treatment for head cancer. All nursing homes and hospitals are closed for visits, leaving my grandparents separated and isolated while battling health conditions. I am sure my grandma is unable to understand or remember why no one is allowed to visit her and probably thinks we have abandoned her. To help myself and my grandparents disrupt the thoughts associated with social isolation while still practicing physical distancing, here are eight tips I came up with along with Carole to help us successfully adapt to our changing society.
- It may seem obvious, but call or video call your friends and family. Before physical and social distancing, we had the excuse of being too busy to call and catch up regularly with friends and family. Most people relied heavily on social media to stay up to date with friends and family’s lives. With social and physical distancing in strict effect, use your extra time to call and have a conversation with a loved one. Avoid texting and get back to the old school method of communicating. Many older adults appreciate and enjoy receiving phone calls and don’t like texts and emails. Schedule weekly family video, phone or three-ways calls to stay connected to your loved ones. Include your favorite snacks, drinks and most comfortable outfit. Now is the time to create new social traditions, connect with your loved ones on a deeper level and create lasting memories.
- Write a letter or send greeting cards. I recently began handwriting letters to my grandma at her nursing home. Canada Post is considered an essential service and is still picking up and delivering mail across Canada. My grandma doesn’t have a phone in her room at the nursing home and does not have a cell phone so connecting with her has proved difficult. I write her letters updating her on the Coronavirus. I also include photographs and my son’s drawings in our letters as a special touch. Writing letters allows our family and friends to experience physical contact while still adhering to the physical distancing rules.
- Window visits. We are all encouraged to stay at home, but if you live alone and have a family or friend who lives nearby, try planning a window or distant visit. I have watched touching videos where people are socializing from a distance to celebrate milestone occasions or bring comfort to a loved one. My son and I recently saw some school friends while on a walk. To adhere to the physical distancing rules, we gave each other air hugs from a distance and talked to each other from a range of six feet. With all social gatherings cancelled until June 30th, 2020, people have become creative in developing tactics to follow the physical distancing rule but still stay connected to their community. Window and distant visits disrupt the thoughts of loneliness and “I am the only one going through this.” Negative thoughts thrive in isolation; the key is physical distancing but not social isolation.
- Attend online classes, meetings and parties. Many personal trainers, yoga teachers, DJs and influencers are offering online socializing to cope with the physical distancing. DJ Nice threw a successful online party where even Michelle Obama showed up! Ani O Yoga studio is offering free online kids yoga and meditation from April 9th-30th as well as virtual yoga and Pilates classes. Tray Arts is also hosting free virtual paint nights for families to spend time together. Many therapists have transitioned their services online as well as support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Set dates with friends and family to attend virtual classes or parties together.
- Help the elderly with online transactions. Many seniors are accustomed to going into the bank to pay their bills and check their accounts. Setting up and paying bills, ordering groceries and supplies for seniors online will relieve the burden of the changes and chaos our society is facing. Seniors are very vulnerable to the Coronavirus and need the most assistance and protection at this time.
- “Be intentional about your self- care. This might include spending time connecting and healing yourself, reducing your time on social media, doing something creative, reading affirmations, accepting your emotions, taking a bath or listening to your favorite artist; and asking yourself “have I been protecting myself from things that are increasing my anxiety or panic?” Now is a wonderful time to self-reflect on how you have treated yourself so far in 2020. What have you learned about yourself? What have you noticed is still getting in the way of your progress? And since you have been given the gift of time, be gentle and empathic toward yourself during this exercise” says Carole.
- It is also a great time to dig into your family history and honor your elders. “There is a great family tree exercise that I incorporate into my family therapy practice. I encourage family members to work together to uncover family secrets, values, strengths and future goals to create a strong, unified identity. It also allows time for family members to share important memories that can be passed on to the next generation,” shares Carole.
- Social distancing may have an emotional toll on you or your loved ones that can go undetected. Including online or phone therapy into your new social distancing schedule can help you and your family ensure open communication is developed or maintained during this time. Many people have said that they didn’t have the time for therapy or healing before. With all social activities shut down across the globe, there is no time better than the present to begin your healing journey. Therapy does not always have to be in person at an office. You can schedule one on one phone calls, video calls, and three-way calls for therapy sessions. Feel free to use the extra time in your schedule to better yourself and gain self-awareness.
This isn’t a competition of how much you can accomplish in quarantine. But it is a slight pause of life as we know it, and a chance to work on self-awareness and healing.
If you or a loved one is in need of elderly in-home services email [email protected]. Stay safe, stay home and help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.