5 Great Ways to Help Seniors During & After COVID-19
Posted on by Eric Rubel
During this unprecedented time, our home is the safest place to be. For people over the age of 65 or those at higher risk for COVID-19, it is crucial to stay at home to reduce the risk of being exposed to the virus. However, just like everyone else, they still need food, prescriptions and other essential products to remain healthy.
It is also important to prevent falls, which can turn into trips to the hospital. While there is never a good time to be admitted to a hospital, there is a whole new level of risk involved today.
If you have a senior parent, family member, friend, or neighbor in need of assistance, here are five ways that you may be able to help them during and after this difficult time.
1. Help them do a Home Safety Assessment to Reduce the Risk of a Fall & Potential Hospital Visit
Now more than ever, it is important for seniors to ensure that their home is safe to navigate. High-risk areas for a fall in the home are the bathroom and stairs, but there are other rooms that can be dangerous as well. Falls are the #1 cause of injury-related hospitalizations in older adults, but they can be prevented if we take the time to identify key safety improvements throughout a home.
Below are great ways to reduce the risk of a fall and increase safety in the rooms/areas that are often the most dangerous for seniors.
If the stairs are too difficult to navigate, consider looking into an additional handrail or even a stair lift. If budget permits, a straight stairlift lift can be installed within a day or two after it is purchased. While some would consider the idea of moving into a senior or assisted living facility in this situation, now is not the time for that type of transition. Their home is going to be the safest place for their health and the most comfortable place to be for the foreseeable future.
Click here to learn how Lifeway recently helped a senior transition home from an assisted living facility by conducting a remote evaluation and no-contact install of a rental stairlift.
Whether it’s getting in and out of a shower or tub, or on and off the toilet, the bathroom is the room in the home that leads to the most falls per year in the U.S. Floors can often become wet and slippery and limited mobility can make swinging a leg over the tub very unsafe.
Fortunately, there are many bathroom products, such as grab bars, super poles, and transfer benches that can improve bathroom safety. While some of these products can be purchased online, it is recommended that they are purchased from local businesses so that they can be installed by a trusted professional. These types of products can be installed within a day or two after purchase and can make a huge difference in improving safety.
More extensive bathroom projects, such as a walk-in tub or roll-in shower are great solutions for those with more significant mobility and balance issues. These types of projects, however, have much longer installation times due to the construction involved.
A free remote evaluation with a local business that offers bathroom solutions is a great way to better understand what would be best for your loved one in need.
Exits / Entrances
With the weather warming up, getting outside to access a backyard garden or take a walk around the neighborhood is a healthy and safe way to relax or exercise. However, being able to safely get in and out of the house may not be an option if mobility is limited. If there is a small stoop or a couple stairs preventing outside access, consider a portable ramp, grab bars and handrails. If there is a long staircase leading to the front or backyard, a temporary or semi-permanent ramp or stair lift are great options to consider. Depending on the model selected, ramps and stair lifts can be rented from Lifeway Mobility. Renting these types of products are perfect for short-term needs and temporary living situations.
We highly recommend taking the time one day to help them do a fall prevention assessment of their home by phone or video chat, even if it takes a couple hours. Depending on their personality, they may get defensive or upset if you say that the discussion is to prevent them from falling. Instead, communicate to them that this assessment of their home will help to reduce the risk of a visit to the hospital.
It will be well worth the time, effort and potentially the money (if accessibility solutions are needed) if it prevents a fall and trip to the hospital. Preventing falls can save lives and help reduce the strain on the healthcare system during this unprecedented time.
2. Deliver Some of Their Essentials – Food, Prescriptions, & Groceries
Staying at home is the best way to reduce exposure to the virus, which means seniors and others at high risk need help with getting food, prescriptions and other essential groceries. There are many grocery stores, such as Wal-Mart and Jewel-Osco that offer grocery and prescription delivery. However, with the demand being so high, it is difficult to ensure that food, prescriptions and other essential supplies are going to be delivered on time.
So, if you are in good health and have a mask that you can wear, ask a senior family member, friend, or neighbor if they need you to pick anything up for them when you go to the store. Instead of making an extra trip, add their items to your list the next time you go out. That will help limit any potential exposure to the coronavirus.
3. Go on a “Social Distancing” Walk Outside or Plant Their Flowers
When you go on a walk with someone, you are usually standing within a foot or two from them so that you can talk while you walk. While a typical walk like this would be unsafe at this time, you can still go on a “social distancing” walk with a senior relative or friend. Have them walk on the sidewalk, while you walk more than six feet away from them. It may be a bit harder to hear each other, but it is a good form of exercise for both of you and will be nice for them to get some fresh air.
If they do not feel comfortable going on a “social distancing” walk, sit outside with them if there is a large enough area near the home where you can be far enough apart. Again, make sure that they are comfortable with the distance.
Planting some flowers near their yard is another good idea if they no longer have the strength or mobility to do it on their own. The flowers will give them something beautiful to look at and smile about while the stay at home orders remain in effect. A simple gesture like this could make their day, and Mother’s Day is coming up!
4. Help Them Place an Online Order from a Local Restaurant
This is something that you can help them with so that they can have food delivered from a restaurant or grocery store. If they have a computer, but are not tech savvy, take some time to explain how to place the order. If they do not have a computer or smart phone, you can ask them what they want to order and then use your own device to place it for them. If they’ve been sheltering in place, it’s possible that they have not had a meal from their favorite local restaurant since mid-March.
5. Teach Them How to do a Video Chat
Does your senior relative or friend know how to do a video chat on a computer, tablet or smart phone? If not, now would be a great time to help them learn. They have likely been stuck at home and it is possible that they have not had any visitors since early March. Talking to family and friends on the phone is great, but it’s even better when you can see them on a video chat.
Depending on how tech savvy they are, it may be a difficult task to teach them how to use this type of software, especially during this time. In fact, for some it might not even be possible if they don’t have a smart phone or computer. However, if they do have one of these devices, it would be worth some extra patience and effort if it meant that they got to see their children or grandchildren.
Finding the time to help others with a senior family member or friend with all the above, may be difficult as you still have your own lives and immediate family to take care of. However, doing just one or two of the things from above could be extremely helpful for someone in need of assistance. During times like this, it is the little things that can have such a positive impact on someone else’s life.