Advise Me

Keeping Parents and Grandparents Safe While Social Distancing

Juggling kids, work and finding groceries may be keeping you occupied while social distancing during COVID-19, but like many you may also be concerned about keeping your aging parents or grandparents safe, healthy and connected.

Carlos Ventura, MD a physician at Banner Health Center in Verrado, who specializes in geriatrics and internal medicine said it’s important to reach out to them, but notes that seniors have lived through national crisis before and often know well how to manage. And while they are considered a high-risk age group, Dr. Ventura said his experience shows seniors tend to be more compliant with health care guidelines than their younger adult counterparts.

“They seem to be more careful, and compliant with social distancing guidelines,” he said. “The challenge will be to determine for how long, and to what extent this recommendation will last. Unfortunately, we do not have a clear answer at this time.”

Combat Loneliness and Anxiety

With a long-term physical separation from friends and family, Dr. Ventura emphasized that maintaining connection with family and friends is important, even if it’s through technology.

“Stay in contact with family and friends through the phone, video calls, and social media if you have access to it,” Dr. Ventura said. “With the current self-isolation guidelines, times like this can be challenging for senior adults that may not have the knowledge of current communication technology, but nonetheless trying to stay connected is important.”

He also suggests avoiding too much TV – especially the news as it can be overly stressful and discouraging. “Keep an eye on your local guidelines and public health recommendations but staying up late watching the news will just make you depressed.”

Turn to activities and hobbies

Dr. Ventura also recommends overcoming anxiety through meditation, exercise, prayer or engaging in hobbies. “If it keeps you active, chances are it will help you to avoid becoming anxious about the current situation,” he said. Many hobbies can be done while isolated including physical exercise like yoga or tai chi. Sewing, reading, gardening, wood working, painting and other creative hobbies are excellent at occupying or calming the mind as well.

In addition virtual activities like virtual book clubs, social hours, games and even virtual church services can help ease loneliness. “The shared experience can help people feel a kinship”, Dr. Ventura said.

Can Grandparents Babysit?

“Each case with babysitting may be different,” Dr. Ventura said. Ideally, if grandparents decide to support the extended family with babysitting, stay-at-home isolation guidelines should be enforced.

“This means grandchildren should stay with the grandparents on a regular basis and without major interactions with other people, including their parents, then the risk of transmission stays low,” he said. “However, if the parents will be picking up and dropping off the children, and if the parents are not able to follow the stay-home guidelines, then unfortunately that poses a risk for the senior grandparents and makes them susceptible to contracting the disease. That scenario should be avoided.”

That risk is even more applicable if the parents work in high-risk professions such a health care, grocery stores, first responders, detention facility workers or nursing home staff.

Safe ways to lend a hand

While it’s hard to stay away, practicing CDC guidelines and helping your parents or grandparents to social distance, in turn, helping them limit their exposure to illness can be one of the most helpful ways to lend a hand.

If you want to do something more, think of things to help limit their exposure such as picking up groceries and other essential items for them, or ordering a delivery of supplies to help them maintain their hobbies while at home. Have meals or flowers delivered to make life a little brighter or easier.

Contact your primary care provider immediately if a loved one is having persistent respiratory symptoms. If they have high-fever, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort or pain with mild exercise, or passing out symptoms go to the emergency room or call 911.

COVID-19 Caregiving Senior Health