Social distancing has impacted us all differently. For some people, it has meant spending day-in and day-out with antsy children, while others have had way too much time on their hands. Others may be experiencing unexpected financial hardship due to COVID-19, causing an increase in stress and anxiety.
For some older adults in our community, social distancing has put a lot of new restrictions on their ability to access care and resources, as well as their ability to connect with the outside world. Thankfully, there is a lot each individual can do to support the emotional well-being of our senior population. We can all do our part!
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list of ideas for reaching out to our senior population during this time:
- Check in regularly on your older adult friends, neighbors and family members.
- Call or video chat with them, since texting and social media may not be the best method of connecting. (Note: You may need to help friends and loved ones with new technology!)
- Seek advice from them based on their experience and wisdom. People realizing they are needed can make all the difference!
- Ask how they are doing during this period of time, how their routines might have had to change, and what kinds of things they are doing to cope with the stress. Encourage your loved ones to stay connected with community by reaching out to your local senior center for ideas.
- Encourage them to keep doing activities that are safe during COVID for their local area, and that they identify as being most helpful for them, such as daily exercise or a walk, stretching, listening to or playing music, reading, enjoying favorite or humorous shows, puzzles, games, social activities, and meditation or prayer. Here are some activity ideas from AARP, and the National Institute on Aging. (Note: While it is still required that we keep a 6-foot distance and wear masks, there are many safe activities that can be done outdoors with loved ones that follow these requirements and minimize chances of transmission.)
- Help them seek medical advice or care if they are experiencing symptoms of physical or mental health decline.
- Offer to bring them a meal, run an errand, or walk their dog. Call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 to get information about senior nutrition assistance.
- Express gratitude and appreciation for any support you get from your relationship with them. Let them know what you admire about the way they conduct their life.
All of the above ideas can be accomplished without much direct physical interaction, which is great during a time when we must adhere to social distancing requirements. It is important to remember that there is a big difference between “social distancing” versus “physical distancing.” Just because we are keeping our physical distance does not mean that we cannot still socialize. We just need to be more mindful about the ways we do it!
When connecting with loved ones, make sure to look out for possible signs of social isolation, anxiety, or depression. It is important to reach out early and often, because mental health issues—just like physical health issues—can become very serious if left unchecked.
Signs that a person might be isolated:
- Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal
- Losing interest in personal hygiene
- Poor eating and nutrition
- Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding in the home
Where can you find support if you recognize any of the signs above?
If someone is experiencing excess stress due to COVID-19, call Washington Listens at 833-681-0211 for support and resources.
What to do if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis?
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- Crisis Connections: 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- Crisis Connections connects people in physical, emotional and financial crisis to services through 24-Hour Crisis Line, Teen Link, WA Recovery Help Line, and WA Warm Line.
- Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
Where can you direct local seniors if they are experiencing hardship due to quarantine or isolation?
At-risk individuals who are in quarantine or isolation and find themselves in need of assistance with getting/picking up supplies or food can call the Skagit County Resource Assistance Line at (360) 416-1892 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.