Collateral Damage of COVID: Elderly People Dying from Isolation

Elderly people who survive COVID are are "dying from isolation" according to this article from NBC News.  It's a pretty depressing story. 

But there are ways to reduce isolation not mentioned in the article.  For example, we are learning how we can visit one another AND be safe using PPE, hand-washing and other procedures. The authors note that communication technology is difficult and less than satisfactory in many cases.   But they don't mention how caregivers can facilitate its use.  In our view, the communications technology we have is still underutilized. 

And once we do figure out how to use it, once we're connected with loved ones over Zoom, for example, what it is exactly we have to say with one another?  Meema Stories can help.  Sharing Meema Stories can stimulate reflection, reminiscence and conversation.

The article begins with a litany of the unseen costs of "the lockdown" on visits to senior residences.

The effort to shield elderly, frail and disabled residents from the coronavirus has created another wrenching health crisis: The confinement meant to protect the most vulnerable is also threatening their lives. 

“The isolation is robbing them of whatever good days they have left — it accelerates the aging process,” Joshua Uy, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said.

It's a sobering article.  There are half a dozen, heartbreaking stories.  The article is pretty detailed with respect to defining the problem but a little light on solutions.  Given that the circumstances and risks imposed by the virus on the elderly, the situation is unlikely to change any time soon.  It makes you wonder where the answers will come from?

For sure, it seems that we've learned how to reduce risk in a number of several, inherently risky environments.  Our first responders and COVID healthcare workers, for example are exposed to the virus many times DAILY and are protected by equipment and procedures that appear to be quite effective.  To what extent might these measures protect elder caregivers and their visitors from one another as well while permitting contact?

In addition to making visits safer, these organizations are learning how to make phone calls and Zoom conferences work better.  We're going to learn that elderly residents are just going to need assistance with technology to communicate with loved ones who cannot visit.  Ask if you or your parent can get help connecting over Zoom, for example.

And then there's the problem of what to talk about.  

We've all had that experience on the phone or in a Zoom call.  You cover the weather, how you slept, what's on the schedule for the afternoon or the menu for dinner.  But then what?  How about a story about Yogi Berra?  Or Thanksgiving?  Or lighthouses on the Maine Coast?  Winnie-the-pooh, that beloved bear...

When you find a story to share, imagine what you might talk about.  What do you notice in the story?  How does it make you feel?  What thoughts or memories come to mind?  Don't ask your loved one what they remember;  instead, SHARE YOUR OWN memories with them and ALLOW them to volunteer whatever they want to share in the context of the Meema Story.  Listen.  And enjoy it.