How To Support Your Elderly Loved Ones From a Distance

August 19, 2020

We have noticed something good going on in our community. People are finding new ways to give to others, either by putting a teddy in a window for a child to see, or a rainbow – signifying better times are ahead.

These kind and lovely gestures towards the community go a long way in pepping the step of those out and about on their one hour exercise allowance.

At the moment we are navigating a strange new world, especially in Victoria, and sadly this means many older people are feeling particularly isolated since 'Stay at Home' restrictions have been in place.

Although this can feel bleak at times, there are things you can do to help support and protect those you love during this pandemic.

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Regular contact through phone calls, letters or e-mails are a great way to communicate and provide emotional and social support. This can help reduce stress, and feelings of isolation.

If you have an older family member, friend or neighbour living at home on their own, the priority is to help them maintain their wellbeing. Here are some simple ways to provide care and support from a distance.

Help them to stay in touch

Regular contact through phone calls, letters or e-mails are a great way to communicate and provide emotional and social support. This can help reduce stress, and feelings of isolation.

A video call, using a tablet or mobile device is a lovely way to be able to see each other on a personal level. If your loved one lives in Mayflower, our Lifestyle Team has iPads available, and would be more than happy to organise this for you.

Check they have supplies

Check in with your loved one – find out if they have enough supplies, food, and are taking their regular medications. If your loved one needs support in getting their groceries or medications, a home delivery service may help with this.

Alternatively, you may choose to shop on their behalf and leave items on their doorstep.

Do something out of the ordinary

Sometimes we just need a little ‘pick-me-up’. Consider leaving a hot meal or gift from the heart on their doorstep (just let them know you’re coming, first!). Another option is to have a special takeaway meal, or some fresh flowers, delivered by a zero-contact service.

Encourage them to avoid the news

Over-fixating on the news can make things feel worse. Encourage your loved one not to spend too much time reading the newspaper or watching the news. It is important to keep informed, however overdoing it can affect your mental health.

Remind them to stay active

It’s important to stay as active during this time. Remind your loved one that they can still go for a walk and enjoy a change of scenery. If they are less mobile, encourage your loved one to spend time in their yard, balcony, or open a window to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.

You may also want to consider having an exercise physiologist visit them to help with some strengthening exercises.

Help them to seek support if needed

Ask how they are feeling, emotionally and physically and encourage them to seek medical help if needed or arrange a doctor to visit them.

Your loved one might like to talk to someone that can provide confidential advice over the phone, and that’s ok. There are several resources for this, and one is the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line.

The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line is available Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 6pm on 1800 171 866.

Motivate them to get busy

Distraction can go a long way to relieving boredom. With more spare time on their hands, your loved one might like to pick up an old hobby or perhaps start a new one. Some fun and engaging ideas include gardening, puzzles, knitting, sewing, or a card game such as solitaire.

There are also online games you can play together – like cards and scrabble. Consider sending them an activity kit, or materials to support their hobby, to provide some extra motivation to get busy.

Just be available

Mental health and social wellbeing are as important as physical health, and there are a few things you can do to help. Let your loved ones know that you are always available for a chat, and if you don’t hear from them for a while, reach out and check in with them.

Encourage your loved one to talk about how they are feeling, and what challenges they are facing. A caring and listening ear can go a long way, and a meaningful conversation can be just what they need to feel loved and understood.

What to do if you need to visit your loved one

If you need to visit your loved one in their home, using the caregiving exemption under stage 4 restrictions, remember to be COVID Safe.

  • Avoid all physical contact and maintain social distance of 1.5m. Even if you have no symptoms, some people in the community are asymptomatic, or you may have the virus on you. It’s hard not to be able hug or kiss your loved one, but you can show your love with encouraging words of support and affection.
  • Maintain good hand hygiene. This means washing your hands regularly and frequently, using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. The World Health Organisation has a video you can watch here, with helpful advice and best practice handwashing technique, to help protect both you and your loved ones. The same hand rubbing motion and method is recommended by WHO for using a hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your face and wear a mask. Although you don’t need to wear a mask when you are in your own home, it is important to wear one while providing care for a loved one. If you do happen to touch your face or mask, wash your hands before touching anything else.

Additional support services

If you think your loved one needs some extra support, Mayflower’s Home Care team may be able to help. Our qualified and well-trained carers can offer your loved one personalised support including help around the home, personal care services and transport to medical appointments. They can also do your loved one’s errands and grocery shopping for them.

Our friendly team follow strict COVID Safe protocols, practice social distancing, and are trained in the use of personal protective equipment. We monitor the health of our team closely to ensure they don’t work when unwell, or when they’ve been in contact with someone who has been unwell. We also screen our clients prior to providing care.

If you would like to speak to someone in our friendly team, please call 1300 522 273, or you can to read more about our Home Care services here.