The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all; not just the elderly but all ages; not just in the UK but Worldwide. It is a strange and unusual situation for everyone and it is understandable that we might feel anxious when things are so uncertain.
The Governments guidelines for the over 70’s to ‘self-isolate’ for 12 weeks is particularly challenging. Here at ILA, we are well-practised at supporting the elderly and vulnerable to help them maintain a sense of well-being both physically and mentally. We have therefore developed some “Top Tips” to complement the government guidelines and help to get you and your loved ones through the coming weeks.
Create Your Own Mental Well-Being ‘First Aid’ Kit
Think of self-isolation as an opportunity. Most people have a practical first aid kit of some sort at home, even if it is just a few plasters and bandages! So why not create a mental well-being first aid kit too? Make a list of, and/or collect together the things that you enjoy doing – or used to enjoy doing and would probably like to enjoy again. Maybe there are a few pastimes that you love but that have lapsed over the years for one reason or another. Are there books on the shelf that you have always meant to read but have never got around to? What about the thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that still hasn’t made it out of the cupboard? What about the currently unfilled book of crossword puzzles that you got for Christmas? Can you dig out those special DVDs from your collection – the ones that you would love to watch again; and so on. Add these things to your mental well-being first aid kit.
Make a Weekly Plan
When you are out of your normal routine and one that previously involved the outside world, it is not difficult for one to feel that the days have merged into one and to forget what day it is.
Time tends to go more slowly in such a situation and it is easy to let the usual disciplines lapse, such as healthy eating at regular meal-times and observing good bedtime routines at the usual hour. Healthy eating, exercise and a good night’s sleep are all important for maintaining our immune system and avoiding low mood.
Make a weekly plan: think about the things you need to do regularly - for example, having a proper breakfast, setting time aside for reading, getting a bit of exercise, setting aside time for household chores, speaking to friends or family etc. You can also add in some of the things from your mental first aid kit.
A Few Examples of Things That I Want to do and Things That are Important to Me:
Monday: AM - The washing | PM - Read a novel
Tuesday: AM - Cleaning of House | PM - Sort Photos & Label
Wed: AM - Exercises Instead of a Walk | PM - Phone Family
Thu: AM - Do Some Gardening | PM - Try New Dish
Friday: AM - Some light gardening | PM - Read Some Poetry
Saturday: AM - Sort Shopping/ Tidy Cupboards | PM - Drawing / painting.
Sunday: AM - Enjoy a Play or Radio Programme, Church on the TV or Online | PM - Watch a Favourite Film.
In anxious times it is easy to feel overwhelmed by things. Breaking things down into days and step-by-step tasks can guard against such a feeling. By being focused and carrying out the plan as far as is possible, you may also be surprised to find how quickly another week comes around.
Some people find it helps to write a daily diary. It is often therapeutic to get thoughts out of your head and onto paper, particularly before bedtime – thereby aiding a good night’s sleep. You can also give yourself a written ‘pat on the back’ for achieving the things from your weekly plan!
Stay Connected with Family and Friends
Connecting with people we trust is particularly important for our mental and emotional well-being. Keep in touch by phone. These can be regular, scheduled calls or ad-hoc calls when we need a bit of extra support or reassurance. At ILA, we are carrying out 2m distance, scheduled door-step visits to check if groceries are needed etc and so that our clients can benefit from the face to face conversations too.
There are ways that we can deal with our anxious thoughts to avoid them escalating. For example, looking at the positive rather than the negative and thinking of ‘coping’ thoughts instead.
“This situation is worrying, but it is only temporary; it won’t last forever”
“I’ve been through other difficult situations and experiences in my life and got through it”
“It’s perfectly normal to feel sad, anxious or afraid sometimes”
“I am not in danger right now, whilst I stay at home”
“There’s no point worrying about something I don’t have any control over. Worrying won’t change it”
Of course, it is always useful to talk about your worries and share any concerns with friends, family, or others that you can trust too.
Balance your Viewing or Listening (TV / Radio)
The television and radio can be wonderful companions, but they can also be burdens if we listen to too much news. It won’t help to cut oneself off from what’s happening in the world completely as the fear of the unknown can often be greater, but make sure you balance this by limiting when / how much news you watch or listen to. Keep watching or listening to those ‘feel good’ and light-hearted programmes. Maybe you could get out one of those old favourite DVDs to watch instead. Alternatively, just turn off the TV / Radio for a while and get something else out of your mental well-being first aid kit.
Sushine and Fresh Air
Sunshine and fresh air is also important for keeping our spirits up and boosting our resilience. As the weather looks set to get warmer, it will certainly be great to get out in the garden if you have one. If not, try reading a book or doing another enjoyable pastime next to an open, sunshiny window?
Cecilia Trueman is a nurse and adviser at Independent Living Advisers (www.ILA.life) a one of the leading service provider of home care services for elderly, parents and seniors in their own home in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Helping to Support Older People with Independent Living.
ILA.life supports older people to live in their own home rather than prematurely move into a care home. ILA.life provides qualified healthcare advisers that work with older people to define, organise and monitor the needed support to live more comfortably in their own home.