Are you concerned about the seniors in your life feeling isolated and lonely at home while they wait out the COVID-19 pandemic? In most cases, the safest strategy to protect their health is to avoid visiting them in person. But it’s important to let them know they’re not alone and that you care about their well-being. Here are some tips for keeping in touch from James Campbell, MD, chair of geriatric medicine at MetroHealth.
Write a letter
Put pen to paper to let seniors know you’re thinking about them. Ask the kids to write a poem or create some artwork to send along as well. Then ask your older loved ones to write a letter back.
Call or video chat regularly
Pick up the phone. Or, better yet, if they have a smartphone, video chat using Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or another app. Let grandparents catch up with their grandchildren. If you’re using a video app, try scheduling a virtual meal together where family members take turns talking about their day.
Send them a care package
Sending a surprise package to your older friends or loved ones can brighten their day. Try sending books, jigsaw puzzles and crosswords to flex their minds and occupy their time. Send flowers or a food basket with healthy items such as fresh or dried fruits, nuts and dark chocolate.
Encourage them to limit news consumption
While seniors want to stay informed, consuming too much news coverage can be stressful, and stress can lower the immune system. Recommend checking the news no more than twice a day.
Encourage them to exercise
Seniors should exercise for 5 to 10 minutes every two to three hours. Learn more about exercising at home.
Offer to shop for groceries
If you live nearby and are going out for groceries, ask your elders if they need anything. Some good food choices include sweet potatoes, red peppers, carrots, oranges, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beans, nuts and seeds, which are rich in beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc. Foods high in Vitamin D — which can be found in dairy products, almond and other plant-based milk and fortified cereals — are other healthy options.
Pick up prescriptions
If their pharmacy has a drive-through option, use it. Or call to see if the pharmacy has delivery options. Check to see if your older friends or loved ones have any questions about their medications. If they do, encourage them to call the pharmacist or their doctor.
Be sure to ask about their health
Seniors should take all health concerns seriously. Are they experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever or shortness of breath? Are they having other health problems or experiencing side effects from their medications?
For non-emergent health concerns, encourage seniors to try MetroHealth’s new telehealth service, which allows patients to access medical care without leaving their home. Learn more.
The health and wellness of our patients and our community is our primary concern at MetroHealth. Although we are trying to limit the number of in-person office visits to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we also want to avoid any lapse in your medical care. With new telehealth solutions, we can address many of your and your family’s health care needs with a telephone or video visit. To schedule a telehealth visit with your provider, schedule online through MyChart or call your doctor’s office. For more information on telehealth, visit metrohealth.org/telehealth.
James Campbell, MD