Do you have older relatives who may be feeling very isolated?
Many elderly people are already at risk of loneliness and isolation, particularly those living alone and without home internet access, who may be far away from their families.
Ensuring older people have the food and prescriptions they need is important – but so too is caring for their mental health. Depression and anxiety can affect older age groups too but we often think of physical wellbeing before mental health.
So, what can you do to help your loved ones today?
Here are our ten top tips to help alleviate loneliness.
1. Create a check-in rota with other family members
Could you create a rota with other family members, so that somebody checks in with them every day? You might not be able, or have the capacity, to call them yourself every day. Making it a shared effort is good for everybody’s wellbeing – and you’ll all get to feel more connected as a result.
2. Talk about fun and distracting things on the phone
When you do have those phone check-ins, try to avoid just talking about the pandemic situation every time.
Some light-hearted distraction can work wonders for all of us. Not sure what to talk about? How about TV show storylines, share updates on funny things the kids have been doing at home and those ‘creative’ dinners you’ve been concocting.
3. Give them a list of handy helplines
There’s lots of support out there for isolated elderly people during the pandemic – but if they don’t have wifi or a smartphone, they might not know about it.
Do some Googling and give them a list of phone numbers that could be helpful if they find they’re struggling for any reason. For example, Age UK, has a helpline.
Within the Advice section on the TrustonTap website, we have summarised the most appropriate links in our ‘What help can I get near me?’ article
4. Make sure they know there's help available for shopping and prescription collections
Your relative will be aware of the need to ‘Stay Home’ as much as they can, but they might not know help is available if they’re running out of essentials or need to pick up a prescription. Or perhaps they don’t want to bother anybody or be a burden.
Make sure they know that support is available and asking for help will not make them a burden – in fact, it is encouraged for everybody’s sake.
This is where those neighbourhood support schemes can come in handy. Local councils and the Government are also coordinating support for the vulnerable and over-70s.
5. Have a chat to them about scams
You don’t want to add to any anxiety, but it’s a good idea to have a chat with elderly relatives about scams.
Unfortunately, fraudsters do jump on any opportunity to con people, so make sure they know that nobody legitimate will ever cold call and ask them for money or bank details over text, phone, email or at the door.
6. Encourage them to remain physically active at home
They may be really missing their local walks and popping to the shops. Keeping active is vital for all of us, to stay healthy mentally and physically. There are some great online classes tailored just for them:
If their mobility is limited, chair exercises and getting out in the garden if they can are good.
7. Help them take up a new hobby
Ask them if there’s a craft they’ve always wanted to do or activities they really enjoy?
There are some wonderful grown-up colouring books or even just a stack of crosswords. Why not order a surprise new activity for them to be delivered at home?
8. Involve them in some of the fun group calls
We may be physically cut off, but thanks to apps and the internet, people are still finding ways to ‘socialise’, with everything from online pub quizzes to just a group chat.
If they don’t have a smartphone or computer, is there a way of just dialling them in on a group call to chat on speakerphone?
If that all seems a bit daunting this article from Vogue is great for guiding you to what is out there.
9. Share some self-help anxiety tools with them
Many of us now have a string of self-help tools for managing stress or anxiety from meditation and yoga, to breathing exercises. Your elderly relative may not be aware of any of these but they could be really helpful.