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In my previous blog, Being an Elderly during COVID-19, I wrote about how lonely and isolating the elderly may feel during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also mentioned the different ways that older individuals may feel cut off and lonely. This is especially tough during the festive season which gives you the time to reminisce on past traditions, memorable moments and also lets you think about the coming year. It can be a very scary place to be in when your loved ones and companions have either passed away or are physically unavailable; being in a residential setting, suffering from physical ailments and mental health issues, etc… One may still have healthy relatives living nearby, however with the social distancing measures in place, they may also be unavailable.

How can one support the elderly during this time?

  • A phone call is the easiest and most traditional way of keeping in touch with someone. Having meaningful and regular conversations helps to feel more connected and also supported. This can be quite difficult when the person involved may be suffering from dementia for example. However, one may not necessarily have a conversation, one may choose to play a song for the other person or read part of a novel. Ideally if the person you’re trying to communicate with is being cared for by a member of staff at the residential setting, you would discuss this beforehand in order to monitor how it may affect your relative.
  • Keeping in touch via postal mail; writing letters, sending mementos, sending small gifts. All these tokens of care show your relative that although you are not physically close, they are still in your thoughts and they are loved.
  • Checking with your relative whether they need anything and being available for them to provide them with their needs. This may also be a neighbour, or someone who used to be a colleague.
  • If your older relative is not tech savvy, you may provide them with a tablet and try to teach them some basic skills.
  • Tap into their interests and likes; maybe they like reading, solving a crossword or a puzzle, knitting or doing a craft. You could always provide them with the supplies and resources and invite them to make something.
  • You could also search for online events, or suggest TV programs for them to follow. These may vary from virtual choirs, documentaries, online support groups, online mass or playing games online.

The most important thing is to include everyone so that nobody gets to feel lonely and forgotten. The more an individual feels connected and part of something, the better they feel and the more able they are to deal with the difficult situations around them.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.