The importance of staying connected to older family members during a pandemic

Coronavirus
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DENVER (KDVR) — During this pandemic, many people are concerned about their older family members who may be in isolation.

While they know this is needed, they also know that isolation can affect mental health.

Judy Wolfe is concerned about her mother, Trudy Strauss, who lives in a senior living apartment in Denver. “We talk on the phone everyday,” Wolfe said.  

But Wolfe says the isolation is hard on her mother. None of the family is allowed to see her.

“She is now confined to her apartment. They are not letting anybody out, even for meals, so she’s frustrated and a little confused,” Wolfe said. 

She, her sister, and the grandkids call, but Trudy cannot FaceTime.  Plus, she lives on an upper floor, so the family cannot get a visit through a window.

Doctors agree, this is a tough time for some older Americans. 

“We know that social isolation is actually associated with increased mortality at the same rate as things like smoking, and high blood pressure. So it is very important that as we are doing this social distancing, which is really physical distancing, that we are not isolating folks even more,” said Dr. Wendolyn Gozansky, a geriatrician with Kaiser Permanente.

Dr. Gozansky says it’s important to find a way to stay connected with our older family members. 

“It could be having the grandkids teach them how to do FaceTime on their phone, or it might be writing letters and sending letters to them,” she said.

It’s also important, Dr. Gozansky said, for our loved ones to stay active, and to find ways to ease anxiety. “Have them experience a virtual tour of a museum, or I’m still waiting for them to set up virtual bingo,” she said.

As for Trudy, her caregiver can still come twice a day, and the family recently got her a cat, which they say has been great.

“As hard as this is for Mom, it’s something that is necessary to keep Mom and everybody else who lives in her community healthy and safe,” Wolfe said.

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