How to help elderly relatives cope with post-lockdown anxieties

Christmas will soon be here and it is a time when people look forward to being with family members, perhaps after a long gap.

With the lockdowns and other Covid restrictions mostly eased there will be more freedom of movement and opportunities for socialising unlike last year.

However, for many, especially the elderly, this freedom comes with anxieties about resuming socialising especially when the figures for those catching Covid are still fairly high.

The first thing is to make sure elderly relatives have had their booster jabs so they are protected as much as possible.

Secondly, don’t force them to do things they don’t yet feel comfortable with.  Although the rules around mask wearing have eased, for example, there is nothing wrong with their continuing to wear one when out shopping or in other public places indoors.  Many people are still taking that precaution, so it is clear others share these worries about transmission.

Thirdly, hand hygiene is still very much important so regular hand washing and use of hand sanitiser whenever they are out and about is recommended. Perhaps encouraging your relative to purchase and keep upon them, a small portable sanitiser that can be used at any time would help alleviate any worries they have.

Common concerns among the elderly include a loss of confidence about being in social settings, perhaps feeling lonely and concerned that now the pandemic seems to be waning loved ones will not keep in such regular contact, loss of a degree of mobility from having had little chance to exercise.

Friends and relatives can help overcome these by:

  1. Encouraging their elderly loved ones to talk about how they are feeling. Sharing anxieties can help put things into perspective and make them seem less frightening.
  2. Being patient. Allow your elderly loved ones to take steps to return to normality at their own pace. The secret is gentle encouragement not pushing too hard.
  3. Helping them to make a list of various goals or activities they would like to reach when they feel ready and, if you can, supporting them practically, perhaps by offering transport or accompanying them.
  4. Keeping in touch as frequently as you did during lockdown.
  5. Reassuring them that there is nothing wrong with being cautious or apprehensive. After all, the Covid pandemic has been going on for almost two years now and it is still not over.

Everybody has experienced a loss of motivation to a degree, but this can be particularly difficult for the elderly, who perhaps had a less vibrant social life even before the pandemic.

If you have tips for different forms of online entertainment and can help them to set some up that will help.

Above all, be patient and supportive and give them time to adjust back to “normality”.