After a long, hard year, the time has finally arrived for some families who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 to reunite. Maybe loved ones have been in an assisted living facility where the doors were closed to visitors until recently. Or maybe senior parents living on their own have been vaccinated and they feel safe to spend time together again.

Whatever the reason, many families can’t wait to get back together. This excitement of seeing each other also brings with it some uncertainty with all the time that’s passed. For example, what will our loved ones look like? How will they be physically and/or cognitively? What will the house look like? Will it be messy, dirty or have things fallen into disrepair? Have they been able to stay on top of their bills, mail and papers?

Reality Check

Keep in mind that the past year has been difficult for everyone. The isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic may have compounded pre-existing cognitive or physical limitations of our older loved ones.

In fact, being isolated from others is known to affect:

  • Physical Health: Social isolation makes a person at a higher risk for premature death from all causes, states information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Cognitive Health: Both loneliness and social isolation are associated with decreased cognitive function, according to research.
  • Emotional Health: It’s no surprise that feeling isolated could make one feel lonely. And seniors who feel lonely are more likely to get depressed, notes one study.
  • Social Health: Social connections with friends are crucial. Other research has found valuing friendships was related to better functioning among older adults.
  • Sense of Purpose: People find more meaning and purpose in their life when they’re not socially isolated and have a sense of belonging, researchers have discovered.

What You Can Do

If you are planning on reuniting with loved ones, here is how you can help them:

  1. Don’t be quick to judge if you do notice problems.
  2. Take a step back, a deep breath and evaluate the entire situation by listening intently to what your loved ones are saying.
  3. Prioritize what their needs are. Be sure to make a list and take one step at a time, one day at a time.
    • Consider bringing in a third party to help. It may lessen the emotional strain.
    • If you need to bring in outside help, be sure that anyone entering the home is wearing a mask and keeps their distance. Consider ventilating the space by cracking open windows.
  4. Promote independent decision-making. Remember everyone wants to make decisions for themselves. Provide a few acceptable solutions to a problem and let your loved ones make the final call.
  5. Encourage healthy behaviors that may help with the lack of socialization they experienced the past year. These may include:
    • Exercise: Take a walk with a friend or neighbor.
    • Plan socially distanced outdoor activities – maybe invite a friend to coffee outside.
    • Continue to wear a masks in public, keep social distance and wash hands frequently.
  1. Make sure that their medical appointments are up to date.

Life Managers & Associates manages the details of life with the same care as a loving family member to enable clients to live independently. We help them feel safe and supported — saving money and alleviating stress for all.