How to Care for Aging Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Practical ways you can help your parents stay healthy and happy while sheltering in place.
Caregiving From a Distance
The COVID-19 pandemic has made caring for our aging parents a lot more complicated, but no less important. How can we continue to ensure they’re healthy and happy without putting them at risk? The answer is caregiving from a distance. Whether you live in a different neighbourhood or another city entirely, there are a host of ways to keep your parents safe, fit, well-fed and feeling loved without ever stepping foot inside their homes. Get inspired by these nine practical tips.
Stay in Constant Contact
As we age, we’re more prone to feeling isolated and lonely. Being forced to shelter in place makes that risk even greater. And while nothing can replace hugs, kisses, laughs and a shared meal, it’s never been easier to stay in touch by phone, text or video chat. Here are a few ideas you can try:
- Call your parents once a day.
- Have your parents read a nightly bedtime story to your kids over video chat.
- Share a pre-dinner toast over video chat.
- Use video chat to notice any changes in your parent’s appearance, mood or demeanour that might merit further investigation. (Learn how to spot the telltale signs of dementia.)
Make Your Parents Feel Like a Priority
Sometimes it takes more than a phone call to battle the blues. Little acts of kindness towards those we love can really help put smiles on their faces and reduce the loneliness that may result from isolation. While observing the recommended social distancing of two metres, you might consider:
- Frequent curbside visits as a family.
- Cooking your parents’ favourite foods or desserts on a weekly basis.
- Asking your parents to cook their “family classic” dishes for you or your kids.
- Buying your parents their favourite bottle of wine, snack or sweet.
- Buying them take-out from their favourite restaurant.
- Delivering flowers.
- Having the grandchildren call frequently.
- Having the grandchildren make a card or artwork specifically for the grandparents.
- Delivering them a book from their favourite author.
Take inspiration from these heartwarming acts of kindness during the coronavirus outbreak.
Encourage Your Parents to Stay Connected
It’s challenging—but not impossible—for aging parents to maintain a vibrant social life despite being physically isolated. You can help by ensuring they have the hardware to stay connected and then encouraging them to migrate some of their offline activities online. Examples include:
- Playing chess, checkers, cards, backgammon or mahjong online with their friends.
- Starting a book club and having group discussions over Zoom.
- Signing up for senior exercise classes online.
- Seeing if their local senior centre, community centre or faith organization is offering activities online.
Find out more great things to do while in self-quarantine.
Set Up Delivery Services For Your Aging Parents
Lack of transportation, reduced mobility and social distancing make shopping more difficult than ever for older adults. Help your parents by going through a list of all their needs and then set up a delivery service for as many as possible. You can do the ordering on their behalf or walk them through the ordering process. You might consider:
- Setting up grocery delivery (some can be done by phone, email or e-commerce).
- Setting up prepared meal delivery through local services like Meals on Wheels.
- Setting up prescription medication delivery with the local pharmacy.
- Setting up household item delivery through Amazon, Walmart, Canadian Tire, Costco, etc.
Help Manage Medications
Managing prescriptions can be a challenge for seniors, especially those with vision impairment, arthritis or cognitive impairment. Not taking the right medications in the right doses and at the right times can cause serious health issues. Here are some ways to help your parents stay on course with their meds:
- Set up medication reminders.
- Set up a pill organizer box for the month.
- Buy an automated medication dispenser, which notifies caregivers when meds aren’t taken and when they need to be re-filled or re-ordered.
These are the questions you need to ask your pharmacist when filling a new prescription.
Help Manage Home Security
Seniors living alone tend to be targeted for fraud, theft and abuse more often than the general population. Fortunately, innovations in home security technology give us more of an opportunity to protect our aging parents when we’re not there. Here are a few tips:
- Install a video doorbell so you can see who is coming and going from your parent’s home.
- Link the video doorbell’s intercom to your phone, so you can let visitors know you’re aware of their presence.
- Install cameras inside and outside the home. Let visitors, such as caregivers, nurses and cleaners know they’re being filmed to deter nefarious behaviour.
- Install a security system, which you can arm remotely.
Here’s more expert advice on how to outsmart burglars.
Plan For Medical Emergencies
If you’re worried about your parent falling or having a medical emergency, consider one of the many new technologies that can summon assistance, even if a phone is out of reach:
- Use life alert bracelets or pendants with GPS tracking.
- Use an automatic fall-detection watch or pendant, or install wall-mounted devices to summon help when needed.
- Install sensors that can detect lack of movement and alert caregivers.
Find out the best exercises for seniors to build strength and improve balance.
Install Smart Technology
Not only can smart technologies help your aging parents manage their household more efficiently, but some can even allow you to manage things from a distance. Here are some smart technologies you might consider:
- Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo (above) and Google Home that allow your parents to make phone calls, schedule appointments, listen to music, change television channels and provide the weather forecast—all by voice command.
- Smart thermostats that allow control of the temperature from your phone or smart speaker.
- Smart lights (controlled from your phone or smart speaker) for aging parents with vision or mobility issues.
- Smart home security that allows you to lock and unlock doors, and arm or disarm alarms from your phone or smart speaker. (Find out the sneaky ways burglars can break in.)
- Key, phone and wallet finder tiles.
- Automatic stove shut-off devices.
Consult our home safety checklist to eliminate common household hazards, room by room.
Install Assistive Devices
When a caregiver isn’t around to help your aging parent with everyday activities like bathing, cooking and getting dressed, considering installing assistive devices. Here are just a few installations that can make all the difference when it comes to living independently:
- Grab bars in the shower and beside toilets
- Automatic bidet toilets and raised toilet seats
- Shower chairs
- Motion-sensor taps
- Stair lifts
- Walkers, activity poles and canes
Next, check out the 10 tools no family caregiver should be without.