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Reach out: How to support older people in this Coronavirus crisis


The toughest thing about dealing with the Coronavirus is the worry that some of the people we love most, who are older and more vulnerable, are particularly badly affected by the whole crisis. 

Older people make up the generation who worked hardest and sacrificed most for the rest of us – and they stayed true to the values that many are now realising are paramount in this crisis: the value of every life, love of country, the importance of family, the strength and comfort faith brings. 

So, at a time, when distance is how we show our love, but contact and love can be shown in a thousand different ways, here’s the top 6 ideas we were given to show how much older people mean to us. 

1) Keep in Touch - Phone and Video

Self-isolation doesn’t mean not being in contact, and its vitally important to be in touch with older people at this time when many people can feel scared and lonely.

Pick up the phone and make a call. Chat about ordinary things, listen and re-assure.  Practise active listening to make sure you respond to concerns or just to understand and be interested. Get your children involved too, they’re natural communicators. If a memory or funny thought pops into your head, send a text or message. Stay in touch, we all need human connection.

Now, the days can pass quickly and with schoolwork now being done at home, and many parents working from home, our genuine desire to communicate can get pushed aside.  One mother told us her children have a rota to call their grandparents, which she said seemed strange and artificial at first but has now become something they all look forward to and ensures that family communication is given the time it requires.

One other top tip was to use technology to make calls seem like a visit. There are so many ways now to make a video call, Skype, on Whats App, by Zoom. From the responses we received, it seems most older people seem to find What’s App easiest to use. 

If your parents or an older person doesn’t have a smart phone, maybe take the time – practising social distancing – to drop them in a phone or tablet with Whats App or Skype/Zoom set up for them. 

REMEMBER to thoroughly disinfect the phone and place in a clean disinfected bag and leave outside the door. 

2) Reach Out Beyond Family

Many of us have parents whom we contact as a matter of course. But we were sent some brilliant ideas to help broaden our reach when providing care and support for older people who may be anxious or lonely at this time, or just in the need of a chat as we all are.

Start by thinking of older relations and friends you have and giving them a call to check how they are. What about older neighbours? Is someone looking out for them? Do they have family and friends to help?

To identify who might need help at a time when we need to observe social distancing, Áine suggested asking the Neighbourhood What’s App (if you have one) for help in identifying you have one, and leaving a message through the door offering assistance with your phone number.

Ann Marie told us that she “posted a short note through the doors in her neighbourhood to offer help for those who needed shopping, or help with anything.” She also encouraged them to join a local What’s App group to share information “and chat and jokes” to help people in isolation. “Older people who are not on WhatsApp gave me their number and I can check on them and shop when needed.”

3) Deliver Shopping

It’s really important that older people don’t go to shops or areas where risk on contamination is high, so offer to do this for them as much as you can, especially for grocery shopping and essential medicines. Again, maintain social distancing at all times, and wash your hands, wear gloves when shopping, don’t touch your face, and disinfect what you can before leaving it to the house.

4) Offer Prayer

Most older people will take great solace from their faith at this time, and are saddened at being unable to attend Church services. Let them know that you are thinknig about them.

5) Walk The Dog

Lots of older people have a dog who they love and who might need a walk, so see if you can help. Dogs are great and older people are great, so it’s a win-win! Just be careful, as always, of social distancing and use disinfectant when you can if handling leads and collars going back into the house.

6) Write a Letter

There’s nothing better than getting a letter or card in the post. It can be a simple I Love You, a funny story, a hand drawn picture or anything you want to send - or think an older person would like to receive. Trust us, it’ll make their day.

And the post office are doing an amazing job in ensuring the post is still being delivered – so don’t forget to say a big thank you to them when they call.