How to Fight the Social Isolation of Coronavirus

April 16, 2020 | BY PHS Staff

Senior citizens who are homebound are already at an increased risk for social isolation. However, with the recent coronavirus epidemic keeping people in their own homes and socially distanced from loved ones, this isolation becomes compounded. One report associates social isolation and loneliness with a significantly increased risk for early death from all causes.

While stay at home orders, social distancing and wearing masks when in public applies to everyone across the board, the restrictions are even tougher on older Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people over the age of 60 stay home and avoid crowds altogether, as they are in the highest risk group for COVID-19.

Of course, the rapid implementation of social distancing is critical in flattening the coronavirus curve and preventing the pandemic from worsening. However, just as the coronavirus fallout threatens to spur an economic recession, it may also cause a “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that is especially difficult on the populations most vulnerable to loneliness and isolation — older adults, people with disabilities, and people with pre-existing health conditions.

While seniors can still receive the at home care they need, the isolation from family members and friends who used to visit occasionally can become debilitating.

Social Isolation and Loneliness: Serious Health Issues

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, funded by AARP Foundation, 43 percent of adults over the age of 60 reported feeling lonely. Another study shows that social isolation among older adults is associated with $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending each year.

Those 60 and older and people who have severe chronic health conditions — such as lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes — are at higher risk for developing more serious illness due to COVID-19.

Here are some things you can do to ease the isolation for your senior loved one.

Plan and Connect

Talk to family and friends and come up with a plan to safely stay in touch with each other during social distancing, or in the event one must self-quarantine for possible exposure or must go into isolation for a COVID-19 infection. This plan should include names of people your senior can reach out to in the event they need help getting food, medication and other medical supplies. Keep your loved one’s senior care services provider in the loop as well and ask them to do the same.

In addition to making plans due to the virus, be sure to regularly call, video conference or FaceTime senior loved ones who cannot leave their homes. Check up on them just because. Make sure they have the resources they need. Make sure they feel connected, valued and loved.

Create a List of Organizations For Help

Come up with a list of community and faith-based organizations that your senior can contact in the event they need access to information, health care services, and related support. Their neighborhood may have a website or social media page that your senior can join, or that you can join and monitor for them.

Add organizations that provide mental health or counseling services, as well as food and other supplies, to the list. Keep in mind, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has an online locator and hotline so people can find counseling services near their home. Preferred HealthStaff’s companion caregivers help older people to stay connected by providing a source of conversation or even assisting with letter writing.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

To learn more about what we’re doing to keep your senior loved one safe and engaged with our senior home care services, please contact us toll free at 866-943-9791 or in Fairfield 717-642-8500.