How to Combat Loneliness and Social Isolation

This far into the COVID epidemic, many are beginning to recognize that the Coronavirus is not the only challenge to overcome. In a sense, loneliness is an unwelcome by-product of the many steps that we have had to take to help mitigate the spread of the virus. This is especially true for our most vulnerable population – our seniors. 

Our seniors who reside in nursing homes or retirement communities are being asked to balance staying safe, using social distancing protocols and isolation, with their psychological need to stay engaged with their larger community, friends and families. To say that it’s a challenging balancing act is an understatement.

Yet what we do know is that when seniors stay engaged through interpersonal activities or regular contact with friends and family, they also do better physically as well as psychologically. 

Social Isolation and Health

We know that even prior to the pandemic loneliness was a concern for seniors, leaving them at risk for depression and a variety of troubling behaviors such as excessive alcohol use and obesity.  Negative life events, the loss of a partner and poor health can all take their toll. Couple that with the anxiety associated with pandemic protocols and feeling overwhelmed almost becomes an expectation. What’s more, these feelings can affect almost anybody, not only seniors.

Overcoming Feelings of Loneliness

The World Health Organization recommends the following advice for older adults and seniors:

  • Keep in regular contact with loved ones, for example by telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference.
  • Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible for eating, sleeping, and activities you enjoy.
  • Learn simple daily physical exercises to do at home when in quarantine so you can maintain mobility. 
  • Find out how to get practical help if needed, like calling a taxi, having food delivered or asking for medical care. Make sure you have a one-month supply or longer of your regular medicines. Ask family members, friends or neighbors for support, if needed.

The Chandler Hall Approach

No matter who you are – at Chandler Hall, Person Centered Care is the guiding light and philosophy behind all of our senior care. In short, the caretakers and staff at Chandler Hall see each resident and patient as a whole person deserving of the kind of individualized attention that comes from truly caring about the well being of each resident. That means every member of our community is valued, no matter where they are on their personal care journey, and we believe community is central to well-being.

Meet Ralph Russell and Rhonda Brown

Ralph Russell is the Life Enrichment Associate at Chandler Hall’s Friends Nursing Home. Ralph makes it his business to check on each resident multiple times of day to see how they are doing. Because social distancing protocols are in place and residents are not able to socialize in large groups, Ralph creates smaller “bubbles”  where residents can converse together, dance to the oldies or engage in stimulating games throughout the day.

Technology enables residents to video visit on a regular basis. And because Chandler Hall is a smaller, more intimate community, Ralph is able to use his observational skills to problem solve and draw residents out when they are feeling a little down or lonely.

Rhonda Brown is Chandler Hall’s Life Enrichment Associate at the Hick’s Memory Care Center. When Rhonda walks into the Center, the residents’ faces light up! Her energy is amazing. If ever there was a Wonder Woman, Rhonda is her!

Rhonda understands that her mission at Hicks’s is to help the residents maintain their relationships to friends, family and to their sense of who they are. Like Ralph, Rhonda engages residents with activities designed for their abilities and to meet them where they are in life.

Maintaining connection and engagement is important when working with Memory Care patients. Chandler Hall’s “sensory room” plays an important part in stimulating residents’ sensory perceptions through sound, textures, lights and movement. The “sensory room” is designed to help residents maintain connections to their surrounding environment.

Most importantly Rhonda helps keep the residents’ families top of mind through video chats, conversations and activities designed to maintain family connections in these times of social isolation. Her conversations with residents are designed to help residents “remember”. She knows each patient and truly feels a deep connection.

Rhonda and Ralph embody the Chandler Hall spirit of Person-Centered Care. Their dedication to each and everyone of their residents is just another manifestation of the Chandler Hall commitment that embodies the Quaker spirit.

What the Experts Say

Recent news reporting tells us that a vaccine for Covid-19 will soon be available with seniors hopefully being among the first to receive it. That is encouraging news and will do much to help relieve generalized feelings of anxiety. Yet as has been reported before, social isolation among seniors is not strictly a product of Covid-19. The pandemic has simply made it more apparent. And while no caregiver is able to address every concern, there are a few who do a good job in helping residents navigate their journey through difficult times. We feel that Rhonda and Ralph are among the best and most dedicated. We know that holidays, birthdays, and other meaningful celebratory days can trigger feelings of sadness and loss of connections. It’s the superstars like Rhonda and Ralph and so many other Chandler Hall caregivers that help residents maintain positive attitudes and stay invested in living their best life!  Please feel free to reach out to Jeanene Reigel by phone, 267-291-2302 or by email at jriegel@ch.kendal.org to talk about your concerns and how Chandler Hall can best help you help your loved one.