As the world seems to be rounding the corner on COVID-19 and useful vaccines are being distributed, you’re going to hear more about timetables to reopen stores, movie theaters and even amusement parks. But there’s no timetable to go back into the world. Everyone should approach this next step as they feel comfortable. Find out more about self-care for seniors during COVID-19.
Uncertainty and anxiety are not unusual in a time like this. In fact, even in normal times, 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Seniors who feel especially vulnerable to illness may be more concerned about rejoining family and friends. As an adult child caregiver, here are 10 things you need to consider to help ease coronavirus anxiety in elderly people about getting back to normal.
1. Be Aware of Their Anxiety
Signs of COVID anxiety can vary by person. Anxiety in older adults may cause low-level discomfort, with an elevated heart rate or rapid breathing. In other cases, they could experience panic attacks or express a fear of losing control. Watch for symptoms of anxiety in the elderly and be prepared to comfort them.
2. Listen to Their Fears and Feelings
If they are experiencing the issues listed above, don’t just dismiss them. Actively listen to them and encourage them to share their fears and concerns. Letting them know that what they’re experiencing is normal will help reassure them, which eases anxiety in senior citizens.
3. Think About What They Can Control
On the other side of the uncertainty that feeds anxiety is control. There are actually a number of elements we can control. Help them find better things to occupy their time, such as their surroundings, maybe taking up a new hobby like painting. Having things in their control can ease anxiety.
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4. Don’t Rush Them Back
Your loved one may have home quarantine anxiety, so have them socialize at their own comfort level. Start by connecting with their inner circle of friends or family. Go only to a limited number of familiar places, maybe concentrating on wide-open spaces like parks or the beach. If they’re not ready for face-to-face, have them talk with a different person each day over the phone or online.
5. Remind Them to Stay Safe
Ease their re-entry anxiety by reminding them that they’re safer if they wear masks, wash their hands and maintain social distancing. This holds true even if they’ve been vaccinated. This can empower them to know they’re doing what they can to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. That can help manage symptoms of anxiety in older adults more effectively.
6. Maintain Their Routine
Ease early-morning anxiety by having them finish breakfast before turning on the news. A scheduled dinnertime can reduce the effects of sundowners syndrome in those with dementia. Set a fixed time for in-person, phone or online visits. The resumption of a routine can help them feel more connected and less anxious.
7. Have Them Practice Mindfulness
Encourage them to practice methods for clearing their mind and dealing with the anxiety. For some, this could include meditation, therapy, prayer or journaling. For other seniors, music, an audio book or even a quiet bath can help them rest their mind.
8. Encourage Them to Stay Active and Healthy
Exercise has a proven positive effect on mental and physical well-being, and the same is true of seniors. Aging people who attend fitness classes regularly at senior centers or go on walks might benefit from senior aerobics videos or online chair yoga at home.
9. Monitor Their Information Intake
The elderly are more susceptible to scams and false news about COVID. Some communication may promise protection from an uncertain financial future. False news reports with unsubstantiated information can also cause stress and anxiety in older adults. Suggest that the senior in your care stick to well-known news sources for updates on COVID and make sure they’re not being led astray.
10. Remind Them of Happier Times
If your loved one must remain isolated for now, suggest activities that can raise their spirits and connect them to happier times. Spend time with them, recall old stories, go through photo albums or scrapbooks. Watch old videos of family activities. This helps get their focus off the present uncertainty.