Judson Haims: Helping your aging parents and loved ones in a post COVID-19 world
Special to The Aspen Times
It has been over a year since many seniors have seen friends, their adult children and/or grandchildren. As we come out of the isolation from lock downs, many people may become anxious about readjusting to a more “normal“ life.
Globally, the impact on mental health from the pandemic has been devastating. There will be no “normal” way to adjust and reacclimate to life after the events of this past year. However, there are some things we can do to not only help ourselves and our children but to help our aging loved ones.
For example, it may be time to get that medical exam, see the dentist, audiologist or optometrist. Maybe, it’s time to re-establish old routines or rekindle old passions and interests. Above all, it should be time to take stock of your life and review your priorities.
Restrictions to medical providers and medical facilities prevented many people from having their physical exams and social/emotional needs met. For people of any age, this may create concerns. But for our elderly loved ones, the inability to see medical providers, lack of social interactions and changes in diet may pose severe complications to underlying health conditions.
In my own family, I have seen my older loved ones put on weight from a bored and sedentary lifestyle along with poor eating habits. While getting back to a more active lifestyle is not going to happen right away, a plan needs to be developed. Soon, when my family and I fly out for a visit, we plan on spending time going on walks and assisting with errands that got put on the back burner. Just spending time with each other will do wonders for all our mental health.
Avoiding a fall is perhaps one of the single most important things our loved ones can do to ensure they return to the quality of life they choose. After months of inactivity and changes in diet, many have lost muscle mass. Getting it back can be quite challenging but integral for a better quality of life.
Reestablishing old routines and rekindling old passions and interests may be helpful as we transition back to our “normal” lives. Zoom meetings, Facebook updates and telephone calls cannot take the place of in-person interactions. If social interaction is important, start reaching out to friends and talk to them about their comfort levels for in-person gatherings. While opportunities must be created so people can once again feel a belonging and self-worth, making the transition should be done in baby steps.
As long as the desire and ability to do so exist, making the effort to return to the way things once were may transformative. A friend living at an assisted living facility told me the other day that they intend to re-celebrate every missed holiday, birthday and graduation missed. Further, with all staff and patients vaccinated, the ability to dine in smaller groups and participate in group social events is providing many patients at the facility to be inspired that a better quality of life is around the corner. I was told that the physical therapy department is busier than usual as many people at the facility are looking forward to getting out for walks and activities.
A client told me recently that while they appreciated the kindness of their friends and family bringing by meals and visiting at a distance, they were especially grateful to the County Health Department for all they have done. Their efforts to educate local seniors on the use of video technologies, provision of both hot and cold meals, social calls and visits when necessary have been appreciated more than words can tell.
A special call out goes to Aspen Family Connections and LIFT-UP for their unwavering support and ability to make sure that those who have needed were not left without. Also, for those ready to start strengthening up those muscles for summer activities, please make sure you plan for your invitation for Wednesday yoga with Mary Anderson.
The events of the past year can result in emotional and psychological trauma. Sometimes, such traumatic events change how people see themselves and the world around them. Being flexible and learning to adjust to uncertainty may take time for our older loved ones.
Here are some ideas to think about when assisting our loved ones reacclimate to life after COVID-19:
• Support them with validation and understanding
• Help in developing routines and schedules that are methodical and progressive
• Make sure that health/medical concerns that may have been placed on the back burner are addressed
• Encourage them to get back into social activities like dinner with friends and family, going to a movie and even travel
Fortunately, as the pandemic subsides there will likely be a proliferation of outdoor events, dinning and recreation offerings. Take part in reopening of our communities, but caution should remain as not everyone has chosen to be vaccinated. Keep washing your hands and wear a mask in situations that may be questionable.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
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