Older adults and vulnerable seniors need help now more than ever during this COVID-19 pandemic. People over 65 may have chronic conditions that make it harder to fight off diseases, infections and viruses. Recoveries are sometimes longer in length and more complicated. Seniors may also be socially isolated. Here are ways to help assist seniors:
Many people question whether the drugs they are taking would make the COVID-19 worse. Because this is a new virus, experts don’t yet have the answers. There is no doubt that patients with pre-existing medical conditions are at a higher risk of getting infected. Patients with high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to be older, which would increase that risk as well. Consult with your physician before stopping any medications.
It is essential to take your medicine as prescribed. Do not split or skip your pills, and if you have concerns about supply, speak with your pharmacist for reassurance. In some cases you may be able to get a few months supply depending on the medication. You may not be able to stockpile certain medications based on their prescription length so check with pharmacists and insurance companies to see if refill restrictions can be waived.
If you take three or more prescriptions a month consider coordinating your refills on the same day so you can stay home as much as possible. Ask your pharmacist to notify you by phone or text that your prescriptions are ready to be picked up. Home delivery is another option and usually delivery fees are being waived during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you follow the daily news each day to stay informed on COVID-19 you may experience feelings of panick. Rest assured, you are not alone. You may have sweaty palms, a racing heart and other symptoms. Your feelings of stress may seem overwhelming and you may even be grieving for lost friends and relatives. With wide-scale orders for sheltering in place and social distancing, seniors are at risk for loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
It is critical to improve your coping skills and resilience so you can deal with the emotional ups and downs during this crisis. Think of resilience as adapting to stress which is brought on by adversity, trauma and tragedy. Having strong resilience will help you work through these events and even improve your life.
Here are common symptoms of stress in older adults:
Here are tips to build resilience and cope with stress:
Build a support network of empathetic and compassionate people around you. If you are open to working with technology, some churches, synagogues, and other religious houses are live streaming services. Social groups are meeting up on platforms like Zoom. Video chats using Facetime to communicate with friends and family are also useful. You can use phone calls and letters to maintain and grow connections. This article goes into more details on using social media.
Deep breathing helps to calm your central nervous system, especially during moments of panic or discomfort. Square breathing: Trace a square in your palm and count as you draw each line: Inhale, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four; exhale, two, three, four; hold, two, three, four.
Meditation and visualization clears your mind of stress by visualizing positive outcomes. This article goes into more detail about meditation.
Daily Exercise is a wonderul, natural stress reliever. Walks are ideal or try a livestream exercise class. More information on starting a walking program can be found here.
Thought Process can be improved to maintain a more optimistic outlook. Positive thinking helps you focus on hope and better times ahead. When you experience negative thoughts they can lose power by saying them out loud and talking through them. Having difficult thoughts and feelings are just a part of being human. Acknowledge them for what they are instead of struggling through them. For each negative thought, think instead of a few positive ones.
Be fully present in the moment with all five senses. Instead of being caught up in your thoughts and feelings, become aware of the present moment. Use your senses like focusing on breathing, smelling different fragrances or listening to music. Engaging in your senses helps to ground yourself in the present moment.
Be self-compassionate with yourself. Be kind to yourself instead of being in judgement. Next time you find yourself thinking hurtful and self criticizing thoughts, ask yourself what a caring friend or family member might say to you.
Practice gratitude to promote your well-being. During these challenging times with covid-19, gratitude can be a beacon of hope. Journaling about things you are grateful for is a good method of practicing gratitude. Express gratitude to a loved one or friend and tell them how much you admire them. This article discusses practicing spirituality.
Take A Break
Sometimes you need to take a break from watching the news or scrolling through social media for updates on covid-19. As tempting as it is, overdoing it can increase your anxiety. Be aware of how much you are consuming media and recognize when it’s time to take a break and unplug.
Set aside a specific amount of time when listening to news from trusted sources and then turn it off. Find a different activity to occupy your time such as reading, board games or other hobbies. Many live-streaming activities are now available such as concerts, personal trainers offering fitness routines and chefs sharing cooking tips.
Maintain normalcy by setting and sticking to your schedule as routines can make you feel safe. Try and stick to your normal sleep and meal times. Do activities that make you happy and take a walk outside in the fresh air!
If you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you identify triggers and give you tools to help get you through this pandemic. It’s important to recognize that we all need to lower our expectations around what we can accomplish when there are so many uncertainties and unknowns in these difficult times.