The need for social isolation and distancing due to COVID-19 has taken its toll on everyone, but no one has felt the effect more severely than our elders who were already more likely to feel isolated and alone.
Family members and professional caregivers alike recognize the cognitive changes that have occurred in loved ones and clients due to the coronavirus isolation. They worry that minimal engagement and loss of connections will contribute to failure to thrive and aggravate dementia in loved ones already diagnosed.
We know through research the connection between physical and emotional health and cognition and social interaction. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute on Health (NIH) state that social isolation and loneliness is associated with higher rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Isolation and loneliness in your aging loved one is not new, nor is it just an outgrowth of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet this time and place has highlighted it in ways we have never seen before and has shown us the need to balance physical distance with human connection.
Connection with our elders based on conversation allows us to be in community with them and technology can help. It does not take a lot. According to the Administration On Aging (AOA), even 15 minutes of interaction a day can help the effects of loneliness on our elders. That easily translates to one phone call or video chat a day.
A daily touchpoint gives you the opportunity to assess how your loved one is doing while providing security and comfort. If your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s, it allows you to orient them to the day and with consistent and simple messages, remind them to wash their hands or stay at home so they don’t get sick.
To ensure a daily phone call or video chat is engaging and productive, don’t overlook the effects of hearing loss. Not only does hearing loss impact communication in and of itself, it impacts everyday life increasing the likelihood of loneliness, isolation and depression. Not to mention that it makes those daily touchpoint conversations frustrating for everyone.
One solution that Annette Murphy, Director of Springpoint at Home, recommends is CapTel. The CapTel service and phone is free to assist people with hearing loss use the phone. There are no changes to the phone bill or monthly fees because this is a federally funded program, paid for out of our phone bill taxes.
The program has changed and you no longer need to visit an audiologist to certify hearing loss, wait for a technician to come out to the house to install it or have internet access. CapTel now accepts paperwork signed by a nurse, social worker or care manager that states the person applying has mild hearing loss or memory loss. In addition, the phone itself comes with a hotspot. No WiFi or high-speed internet access in the home is required. The phone is shipped in the mail and is simply plugged in. The transcription of the conversation created by a live person can be left on the screen for review later.
Sociavi and GrandPad are two additional “plug and play” technology solutions. Neither requires your loved one to do anything to use them. The family caregiver or care manager does any behind the scenes set up. Both allow an elder to interact with family members visually and communicate readily.
The importance of keeping your loved one oriented when being with them physically is not possible can’t be overstated. Technology gives you the ability to give them visual cues like how to put on a mask and keeps them grounded in today. For help with your loved one and solutions to their isolation and loneliness, contact Springpoint at Home.
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