Many of our older adults have turned to assisted living to help them remain vibrant and healthy during their later years.
Years ago, these communities didn't have the luxuries they have today, but times have changed. The experts say it helps our vulnerable seniors to stay mentally sharp if they stimulate their brain by engaging in programs and activities. If you look around the country, some assisted living and nursing homes seem to have everything available. Some of the attractions are: yoga, gardening, tai chi, spin class, art therapy, cooking classes, knitting, computer classes, cultural activities, swimming, film festivals, music therapy and ceramics.
You see, it's not just bingo anymore, all kinds of festive activities are available that can bring joy to our older adults. Many of them are innovative programs and they have vast opportunities for social interaction too.
In addition to these creative efforts to keep our seniors stimulated, safety and security is the number one priority among these communities and facilities. Not only do they make sure medications are being taken, but they also strive to make sure the resident is getting the right nutrition. With many of these recipes for success, life seemed to be flowing rather smoothly for our seniors, especially the frail and vulnerable. They were getting extra quality care and the results were a healthy and vibrant lifestyle.
Sadly, with a blink of an eye, things changed overnight. COVID-19 kicked in around March 2020 and many of the group programs and activities that help our seniors thrive had to be shut down. Even though many of the long term care communities and skilled nursing facilities that care for our elders have adjusted by taking some programs outdoors, it is still very difficult. Based on the current COVID-19 numbers, we may be in for another rough ride ahead.
With COVID-19, we have had to adjust to rigid regulations. A mask is vitally important and social distancing of at least 6 feet is crucial as well. According to the CDC, the risk for severe illness increases with age and older adults are at the highest risk. The rigid guidelines that the state and federal authorities require are very important, but the net result creates loneliness and isolation for the residents.
In our recent blog, “Social Isolation During COVD-19 Is Harmful to Seniors”, we emphasized the many health challenges associated with isolation. Some of the complications derived from loneliness and isolation are heart disease, stroke, dementia and depression. If prolonged, the experts compare the setbacks to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. We all know what cigarette smoking does to our health.
Due to the gut-wrenching pandemic, programs have been cutback, social activities have been curtailed to the bare minimum and family visits have been dramatically reduced. The confinement is for the safety of our vulnerable seniors, but it has a cost associated with it too. The restrictions are taking a toll and robbing our older adults and families of the precious moments they should be enjoying during this stage.
Until we have COVID-19 under control, let's keep our vulnerable seniors in mind. Our assisted living communities and skilled nursing homes are doing everything possible to help keep their residents safe, but this causes isolation problems. Even though we may not be allowed to visit, we can certainly do our part, by sending a quick note, making a phone call, or sending a heartfelt letter, email or text.