Since they are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, seniors are strongly encouraged not to go out, whether they are living at home or with their caregiver. Such a situation risks amplifying emotions that might be manageable in normal times: loneliness if they live alone, but also fear of the unknown. Some are also afraid of their questions being upsetting, so they prefer to repress their concerns.
How can you start the dialogue and make sure that they understand the situation, its development, and the rules? And remember that it is also important to talk about “something else.” A healthy conversation between the you and the person you care for might start by checking their anxiety level, then talking about lighter subjects, thereby reducing their stress and yours.
Using open questions
Marie Beaulieu, Chair of research on elder abuse at Université de Sherbrooke, and Nima Machouf, epidemiologist, suggest using open questions. Simple and direct, they help you quickly determine the vulnerability of a senior and their view of the current situation.
- What do you know about COVID-19? To prevent your loved one from having a poor understanding of the reality, assessing and correcting their knowledge using trusted sources may be beneficial. Such an exercise will also provide you with an opportunity to take stock of all the news conveyed on a daily basis (see our article COVID-19 – News stories: distinguishing between truth and falsehood).
- How do you feel about this? The answer to this question may not come immediately, but do not hesitate to reassure them, focus on what is constructive, improvements or remind them that you are available if they want to talk.
- Do you have questions, things that are bothering you? More specific questions will certainly require more in-depth research on your part. Again, be positive in your approach: use a recent, trusted source and a reassuring angle.
- How are you spending your time? If your loved one lives at home, their daily routine has undoubtedly changed.By their answer, you will be able to get an idea of their routine, make sure that they are eating properly, that they are demonstrating at least a little organization, whether they are bored ... and you can suggest accessible new habits or activities to give them new motivation.
- Do you have the contact info for your doctor and your pharmacy? If not, ask them to write it on a piece of paper and leave it next to the phone.
Talk about something else... and accept refusal
Talking only about coronavirus and everything that goes with it is not recommended. However, you may be short on inspiration for other topics to discuss. Why not talk about your loved one’s memories? Their education, childhood, work, but also their opinions and interests … some things might make them emotional, so choose light-hearted, funny topics that will brighten up the conversation.
You must also consider that your efforts may not have the desired effect. Your loved one has their highs and lows and may choose not to talk or to do nothing. Do not take this refusal as a failure, or a lack of willingness or excessive laziness on their part. This is easier said than done, of course, but accepting this state may prevent you from wasting a lot of energy for few results. Letting your loved one do nothing, sleep or watch television and checking that this is only a phase is also providing support.
If you need advice, someone to talk to or information, or if the situation becomes too difficult, you can reach our Caregiver Support counselors every day between 8 am and 8 pm.
By telephone: 1 855 852-7784
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Ms. Beaulieu for kindly agreeing to let us use her words in this article.