Haims: Helping your aging parents and loved ones in a post COVID-19 world | VailDaily.com

Haims: Helping your aging parents and loved ones in a post COVID-19 world

It has been over a year since many seniors have seen friends, their adult children, and grandchildren. As we come out of the isolation from lockdowns, many people may become anxious about readjusting to a more normal life.

Globally, the impact on mental health from the pandemic has been devastating. There will be no “normal” way to adjust and re-acclimate to life after the events of this past year. However, there are some things we can do to not only help ourselves and our children, but to help our aging loved ones. For example, it may be time to get that medical exam, see the dentist, audiologist, or optometrist. Maybe, it’s time to reestablish old routines or rekindle old passions and interests. Above all, it should be time to take stock of your life and review your priorities.

Restrictions to medical providers and medical facilities prevented many people from having their physical exams and social/emotional needs met. For people of any age, this may create concerns. But for our elderly loved ones, the inability to see medical providers, lack of social interactions, and changes in diet may pose severe complications to underlying health conditions.

In my own family, I have seen my older loved ones put on weight from a bored and sedentary lifestyle along with poor eating habits. While getting back to a more active lifestyle is not going to happen right away, a plan needs to be developed. Soon, when my family and I fly out for a visit, we plan on spending time going on walks and assisting with errands that got put on the backburner. Just spending time with each other will do wonders for all our mental health.

Avoiding a fall is perhaps one of the single most important things our loved ones can do to ensure they return to the quality of life they choose. After months of inactivity and changes in diet, many have lost muscle mass. Getting it back can be quite challenging but integral for a better quality of life.

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Re-establishing old routines and rekindling old passions and interests may be helpful as we transition back to our “normal” lives. Zoom meetings, Facebook updates and telephone calls cannot take the place of in-person interactions. If social interaction is important, start reaching out to friends and talk to them about their comfort levels for in-person gatherings. While opportunities must be created so people can once again feel a belonging and self-worth, making the transition should be done in baby steps.

As long as the desire and ability exist to do so, making the effort to return to the way things once were may transformative. A friend living at an assisted living facility told me the other day that they intend to celebrate every missed holiday, birthday, and graduation missed.

Further, with all staff and patients vaccinated, the ability to dine in smaller groups and participate in group social events is providing many patients at the facility to be inspired that a better quality of life is around the corner. I was told that the physical therapy department is busier than usual as many people at the facility are looking forward to getting out for walks and activities.

One of our clients told me recently that while they appreciated the kindness of their friends and family bringing by meals and visiting at a distance, they were especially grateful to the county health department for all they have done. Their efforts to educate local seniors on the use of video technologies, provision of both hot and cold meals, social calls and visits when necessary have been appreciated more than words can tell.

The events of the past year can result in emotional and psychological trauma. Sometimes, such traumatic events change how people see themselves and the world around them. Being flexible and learning to adjust to uncertainty may take time for our older loved ones.

Here are some ideas to think about when assisting our loved ones re-acclimate to life after COVID-19:

  • Support them with validation and understanding.
  • Help them develop routines and schedules that are methodical and progressive.
  • Make sure that health/medical concerns that may have been placed on the backburner are addressed.
  • Encourage them to get back into social activities like dinner with friends and family, going to a movie, and even travel.

Fortunately, as the pandemic subsides there will likely be a proliferation of outdoor events, dinning, and recreation offerings. Take part in re-opening of our communities but caution should remain as not everyone has chosen to be vaccinated. Keep washing your hands and wear a mask in situations that may be questionable.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be contacted at visitingangels.com/comtns or by calling 970-328-5526.

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