Connections are vital for every human being. These connections may be even more important for older adults, who may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. In addition, many of these older adults may also experience negative effects on their physical, mental, and emotional health when these connections crumble. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing has made maintaining these connections much more challenging. One way to maintain connections is via online tools, and caregivers can play a vital role in maintaining and fostering these connections.
The Importance of Connections
Connections with family and friends can have myriad positive impacts on seniors. Some of these benefits are relatively obvious, but other pluses do not always get the same degree of attention. What are some of the most important benefits:
- Connected seniors often live longer, and their quality of life may be dramatically better, from both physical and mental health perspectives.
- Connections can increase a person’s sense of belonging in a community, leading to a positive spike in their self-esteem. This can generate a wide range of spillover benefits.
- Connections can also dramatically reduce the risk that an older adult will be abused. Seniors that are alone or those that have a small social network are at the greatest risk of being abused because they are less likely to report it.
Connecting Seniors in the Covid-19 Era
As noted above, connections are vital to maintaining an older adult’s physical and mental health. But, these connections are even more complicated during the Covid-19 global pandemic. Older adults are uniquely vulnerable to poor outcomes with a Covid-19 infection. Upwards of 90 percent of individuals who have died from Covid-19 have been over the age of 55, and most of these older adults have lived in congregate facilities, such as nursing homes.
These harsh medical realities mean that it is simply not advisable, at present, for connections to be made through in-person activities. So, if in-person activities and meetings cannot happen, then what is the best approach? The best approach is using the Internet to foster connections.
Using Technology to Collaborate
There are many different ways that older adults can connect to family and friends with technology. For example, they can up their connections by regularly e-mailing and texting with friends and family members. Also, instead of merely calling loved ones, older adults can arrange Zoom phone calls that can include a large circle of people, or they can even FaceTime, with an Apple product, so that they get video images. These tools can help people feel more connected to their loved ones.
However, these are not the only technological options available. Increasingly, churches and other organizations have set up online options, often via Zoom, where people can feel connected without attending an event in person.
However, even though all of the approaches outlined above are great and extremely beneficial to people who participate, there is a hiccup with this approach.
What is the Hiccup?
In this case, the hiccup is relatively straightforward. Many older adults are not technologically savvy. New technology may intimidate them, and they may also have physical or cognitive challenges that make some tools very complicated or frustrating. Plus, this frustration may mean that the older adult withdraws and does not adopt these new approaches.
How Can Caregivers Help Seniors Connect Online?
Without assistance, many older adults quickly become frustrated with new technology and ultimately give up. This is where caregivers can and should step into the process and help navigate the natural hiccups that may occur.
The amount of navigation needed by the caregiver may vary depending on factors, such as: how technologically savvy the person is, what types of technology the person had previously used, and any medical issues that the person may have?
#1 One-time Tutorials
For a relatively technologically savvy older adult, the caregiver may only have to give a one-time tutorial to get the older adult started on something like Zoom. It may also be beneficial to leave a clearly spelled out instruction sheet that the person can refer back to later if they have questions!
#2 Ongoing Tutorials
Suppose the older adult is less technologically savvy or is struggling with a range of health issues. In that case, it may be necessary for the caregiver to take a more active role in connecting the person online. The caregiver may need to set up an online email account, as well as establishing passwords that both they and the person that they are caring for will know. Sometimes, simply setting up the account will be enough. In other cases, the caregiver may need to sit next to the older adult while they are Zooming, stepping in to correct any technological glitches that may occur.
#3 Determining Technological Needs
Another critical issue to remember is that successfully connecting a senior online is not merely about teaching a person how to use a new technology or application. It may also be necessary to purchase the essential tools for the senior. For example, Zoom can be used via a smartphone. But, many people find it easier to use on a laptop computer. The caregiver can play an integral role in determining what technology needs to be purchased and communicating these needs with other family members.
It is also crucial for the caregiver to navigate this entire process with compassion. Remember, it can be scary and intimidating for an older adult to feel like they need to learn a wide range of new skills. To minimize these feelings, the caregiver may want to involve the older adult in the purchasing process, asking them about their preferences from a limited range of options. It may also be beneficial at times for the caregiver to step back and allow the person that they are caring for the opportunity to succeed via trial and error.
Finding the correct balance between independence and help can be challenging. It may depend to a large degree on both people’s personality types. Some people may embrace receiving help, whereas others could potentially find the help frustrating or even insulting.
Get Connected With A Caregiver
Connections are integral in helping older adults maintain a high quality of life, from both a physical and emotional perspective. In years past, connections were relatively easy to establish. But, Covid-19 and its self-isolation requirements have thrown a wrench into this. So, creative solutions need to be carved out. One solution is to use new technology, such as Zoom, to connect individuals via the Internet remotely.
If you’re looking for a caregiver to help your loved one navigate technological solutions so they can stay connected, contact Community Home Health Care at 845-425-6555. You can also visit our website at https://old.commhealthcare.com/home/.