July 19, 2020 Eldercare Discussion

We discussed eldercare & agingissues—including pandemic-related challenges and caregiving tips, confinement, loneliness, safe nature outings, compassion meditation and other coping strategies.  

Aging & Elder Care

–  We discussed how it’s important to have regular communication with the management and nursing staff of an assisted living or long-term care residence about any special needs or safety issues that your loved one might have, because vacations, illnesses and other staffing changes can result in your concerns might not be conveyed or understood by the substitutes.  This is especially important if your loved ones have dementia or are unable to advocate for themselves.

–  A participant described the pandemic-related challenges of providing support to residentsof a dementia care residence.  The management’s restrictions on when and how outside caregivers can visit presented obstacles to effective interactions with the residents.  This was especially true for those working in senior facilities that were unpredictably opened and then closed when residents or staff test positive for Covid-19.  .  And, there can be an added burden of grieving for those who provide care services to those hospitalized or who have died from the coronavirus.

–  We also discussed the concerns and stresses felt by all caregivers who are potentially exposed to infection as part of their job—including the risks of bringing the coronavirus home to their loved ones.  It’s even more challenging for those who have pre-existing health conditions or limited financial resources that require them to work.

–  Other types of pandemic-related anxiety were discussed—including the challenges of providing restricted social support to loved ones and parents’ worries about sending (or not sending) their children back to school at a time with high rates of community spread.  Even those who are retired or can work from home are worrying about their loved ones and friends who are struggling with workplace risks and job uncertainty as well as mental health or economic crises.  

–  For all adults having emotional difficulties, the free Emory University Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) sessions were suggested as an antidote to the distress of such unavoidable situations.  Some of our eldercare group members said they have benefitted substantially from this program, especially the self compassion.

–  During the pandemic, Emory’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics (CCSCBE) offers free, live CBCT compassion practice and fellowship sessions three days a week via Zoom. To access them, see: https://compassion.emory.edu/cbct-covid19-response.html.

Tuesdays and Thursdays (twice each day) at 7:30am and 7:30pm (Eastern U.S. Time Zone)

Sundays at 9:00 am (Eastern U.S. Time Zone)

–  We also talked about those who were anxious about the increasing numbers of severe covid-19 illnesses and deaths, their own fear of catching the virus when they venture outside their homes.  One major concern for older persons living alone is loneliness.  Even before the pandemic it was a common problem that we discussed at our December 2019 monthly meeting.  Because mandated sheltering-in-place restrictions could make this even worse, some content from that meeting report is repeated below:

–  Per WikiPedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loneliness):

    Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation.  Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future.  As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people and one who feels lonely, is lonely. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, and physical factors….

– Some pre-pandemic articles on loneliness in older persons.

o  Nicolas Nicholson.  A Review of Social Isolation: An Important but Underassessed Condition

in Older Adults; The Journal of Primary Prevention, June 2012, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 137-152. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22766606

o  Perissinotto CM, Stijacic Cenzer I, Covinsky KE.  Loneliness in older persons: a predictor of functional decline and death.  Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jul 23;172(14):1078-83.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4383762/

o  Paige Minemyer.  Loneliness has become a big target for Medicare Advantage insurers.  Here’s what they’re doing about it.  Fiercehealthcare, Nov 15, 2019 https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/why-medicare-advantage-insurers-are-investing-heavily-programs-targeting-social-isolation

–  In the last few months there are many new articles on pandemic-related loneliness—includingone that describes some recent survey research:

o  Pandemic Loneliness in Late Life – Susan Gubar; The New York Times; July 30, 2020.

o  Aging Parents’ Loneliness: The Other Pandemic. Carolyn Rosenblatt; Forbes; August 1, 2010.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2020/08/01/aging-parentsloneliness-the-other-pandemic/

o  COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse. Jamie Ducharme; Time Magazine; May 8, 2020. https://time.com/5833681/loneliness-covid-19/

o  The New Pandemic: Loneliness.  Diana Raab PhD; Psychology Today; April 5, 2020.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empowerment-diary/202004/the-new-pandemic-loneliness

o  Study: Loneliness Did Not Appear to Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic. American Psychological Association; June 22, 2020.  https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/06/loneliness-covid-19

o  How a Pet Can Help You While You Shelter in Place.  Michelle Pugle; Healthline; April 5, 2020

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-a-pet-can-help-you-during-shelter-in-place

 –  We discussed how—several months into the pandemic’s social restrictions—we’ve all now been able to experience the effects of at least some physical isolation. One participant remarked that she thought that she would feel lonely when she retired and even more so when the pandemic occurred.  Yet, she now feels that her simple life is a blessing.  This feeling was shared by others who feel this is actually a good time to develop their spirituality. 

–  Participants who are caring for frail elders—including those with memory impairments—had some practical tips for resolving common pandemic-related problems:

o  For someone reluctant to bathe, one participant encouraged the person’s spouse to shower with him.  One participant said that playfully helping an older man wash a car with a hose had led to a virtual shower.  Offering to wash and cut a care partner’s hair is another strategy.  Another participant suggested putting a favorite snack in the shower—like chocolate-covered peanuts.  

o  For elders with an aversion to wearing a face mask, giving them a choice of one that has a favorite city, organization or team logo, design, or color can sometimes change their mind.  Also, those who have allergies or a breathing problem might be more willing to use a plastic face shield, which has an added benefit for other hearing-impaired residents who use facial expressions and some degree of lip reading to supplement their hearing.

–  Participants also described how they were coping with the activity limitation mandates (aka, cocooning).  The most common strategy was to periodically get out in nature to walk in or work in one’s yard or a community garden.  Morning walks in a cemetery or on the paved paths and wooded trails in many local parks—such as Stone Mountain and Yellow River Park—were described as safe and effective therapy for those feelings of confinement. 

Participant-Recommended Local Parks

o  Yellow River Park  https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/web/gwinnett/Departments/CommunityServices/ParksandRecreation/OurParksandFacilities/GuidetoYourParks/YellowRiverPark

o  Stone Mountain Park  https://www.stonemountainpark.com

o  Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area  https://arabiaalliance.org/

o  Mason Mill Park  https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/parks/mason-mill-park

 o  Lullwater Preserve at Emory https://www.atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/lullwater-walking-running-trails-emory-university-atlanta/

Links to Other Area Parks

o  DeKalb County Parks https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/parks/mission-statement

o  Gwinnett County Parks  https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/web/gwinnett/Departments/CommunityServices/ParksandRecreation/OurParksandFacilities

o  Path Foundation https://www.pathfoundation.org/

o  Atlanta Trails  https://www.atlantatrails.com/    Interactive Map https://maps.atlantatrails.com/

o  Explore Georgia Outdoors & Nature https://www.exploregeorgia.org/outdoors-nature  

o  Best trails in Georgia  https://www.alltrails.com/us/georgia

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