Let’s be honest, some days there are real advantages to being home alone. Dessert for breakfast? Sure. Staying up really late to watch a favorite movie? No problem. Working remotely while still in your PJs? Who’s going to know?
Yet with stay-at-home requirements now entering their fourth week in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, such formerly guilty pleasures are losing their luster and novelty. And for many seniors, being home alone has translated into just being lonely.
Even before social distancing, 43 percent of those 60 and over reported feeling lonely, according to a recent AARP-funded report. That’s not surprising, given that nearly 30 percent of all Americans already live alone. But now, even those simple social interactions that brightened a day—coffee with a friend or taking a class—are mostly gone, at least for the time being.
Nevertheless, we are social creatures, hard-wired for connections and community. In fact, staying socially connected affects our overall health and emotional well-being. So what are we to do?
Capital Caring Health (CCH) is ready to help, starting with the following ideas and suggestions.
Try to spend at least 15 minutes of your day connecting with someone, whether a family member, friend, or neighbor. AARP recommends regularly scheduled phone and video calls, along with texts and emails, especially if you are a senior living alone. It’s also important to be in touch with someone you trust to share any feelings or worries you may have.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet including fruit and vegetables helps maintain your health, energy, and outlook. Conversely, an unhealthy diet can actually make stress and depression worse. Make sure family and friends know if you need help with grocery shopping or healthy meal preparation. If you are concerned about your ability to obtain food or groceries, please call 888-342-4774 or email email@example.com. We can help arrange home delivered meals during this crisis.
Get Your ZZZZZZZZs
Getting enough sleep is also important. While worry about COVID-19 and other concerns may be keeping you awake, you’ll improve your chance of quality sleep by not eating or drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime. Also, make sure your bedroom is dark, and place your phone out of reach. Cat naps and resting throughout the day can also help you recharge.
Exercise and Get Some Fresh Air
Exercise is great at reducing stress and improving mood. Depending on your ability, try seated exercise or yoga, or take a walk or bike ride…while maintaining physical distancing, of course.
Even just sitting on your porch or balcony can make a difference. Research shows that spending time outdoors and getting sun on your face are closely linked with happiness. If you can’t go outdoors, just looking out the window at trees and clouds or photos of nature can help.
A mind-body practice such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can also help you regain a sense of calm. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center offers pre-recorded Guided Meditation audio sessions.
Also try using this time to remain engaged in your interests or find new ones, on your own or virtually with friends.
Seek the Medical Care and Help You Need
Don’t let the fear of catching COVID-19 keep you from getting the regular medical care you may need. Under certain circumstances, CCH can assure that you get necessary medical care and social support services, without leaving your home, through such programs as Primary Care at Home, Stay-at-Home Services, advanced illness/palliative and hospice care.
Don’t Grieve Alone
Those grieving the loss of a loved one may be especially affected by COVID-19 if they are unable to say good-bye in person or attend a memorial with others. CCH counseling services and grief support are available by phone or via Zoom, at no cost, for anyone who needs us—whether you’re an individual and family in our care or a member of the community-at-large. CCH volunteers can even help you set up the technology to do virtual visits with us, as well as connect with others in your life.
Our bereavement support groups will resume, virtually, in May for those who have lost a partner, parent, or child. While there’s no charge, online registration is required. An online support group is also in the works for bereaved children to interact with each other and do a group craft project in real time.
We’re All in This Together
You may be alone in your house and unable to connect in your usual ways, but millions of people are sharing the same experience. Together, as a community, and with help from community-based CCH, there are ways to remain safe, engaged and calm, ready to mingle or dance or discuss a book…virtually for now, in person sometime soon! Call Capital Caring Health at 800-869-2136 or visit www.capitalcaring.org to find out how we can help.