It has been devastating to hear and see the headlines about how COVID-19 has impacted the senior population. The death rate amongst seniors is well above any other demographic. As challenging as it has been to care for your own family during this time what about your aging parents and grandparents? How are they doing?
I understand that, as moms, we have been inundated with the stress and anxiety related to COVID-19 and its impact on managing our work responsibilities while caring for our immediate families. But what about our responsibility in caring for our aging parents and grandparents? You can’t help but feel like you are sandwiched between multiple caregiving responsibilities.
I empathize with any of you who may feel this is probably very daunting as older adults are considered to be of the most vulnerable for contracting the virus. It has been highly recommended that activities outside of the home and interaction with others be limited. But with that comes some repercussions on the aging body and mind where social isolation and lack of physical activity can only contribute to accelerating the aging process and wreak havoc on mobility complications that have nothing to do with the risk of contracting the virus alone.
I hope to shed light (which is in no way a one size fits all) on some ideas to help you assist your parents with how they can best thrive at home. Here are a few strategies to minimize the “shelter in place” effects on our most golden loved ones, like aging parents and grandparents:
- Encourage participation in routine exercise by way of a virtual exercise video (Silver Sneakers has an entire YouTube channel with short effective videos for all activity levels). Movement is medicine and exercise will help to retain physical strength and energy. It will also help to keep the immune system strong, therefore, reducing the risk of getting sick.
- No computer or smartphone, no problem. The CDC has been consistent in advocating for a walk outside (either up and down the street or in a park while practicing social distancing). Since it’s currently summertime, it’s best to venture out during the cooler times of the day.
- Recommendations regarding where and when to wear a mask change all the time. Be mindful that wearing a mask can impact your vision and feel uncomfortable especially when it’s hot. If your loved one needs mobility assistance, be more vigilant in assisting them so that they don’t have a fall.
- Consider using a non-medical aide service that has an experienced caregiver who can assist with some household tasks and companion care to give you a much-needed respite from caregiving.
- Ensure that they are receiving adequate nutrition and hydration daily.
- If you have noticed them having increased difficulty with getting up and down from a chair, getting in and out of the car, changes in walking patterns or complaints of joint pain impacting mobility, then an assessment by a physical therapist can help to restore function and reduce the risk for falls
- Make sure that home environmental safety measures are in check (i.e grab bars in the bathroom, removal of clutter and mobile scatter rugs, proper use of walking aids, etc).
- Since routine physician visits have resumed, ensure that any medication changes are closely monitored for the first two weeks and that any side effects are understood.
- Continue to check in as often as possible; anything can change at any time and we need to keep an extra eye on our most vulnerable love ones.
We are all getting acclimated to new norms as best as we can. The comfort of home is best where we can continue to have control on the social interactions and care that we can provide for those who need us most.
I’m Dr. Angela Onyekanne, geriatric physical therapist and owner of Seniority Wellness & Consulting LLC (a mobile physical therapy and wellness private practice servicing seniors at home). My passion is in helping older adults “thrive and shine” by maximizing their independence, staying steady on their feet and aging well so that they can live their best life. I am a graduate of Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University where I earned my doctoral degree in physical therapy.
My family and I moved here to the Cincinnati area in 2018 after my husband transitioned into the private sector from active duty service with the U.S Navy. I am a proud boy mom of two sons, ages 5 and 3. My favorite things that I enjoy are traveling, seafood, size 11 shoes and a long run.