Pathways Issue 4: COVID-19 and Seniors' Health - Page 17

Dr. Mark Fok, clinical assistant professor at UBC, and geriatrician
at Vancouver General Hospital and Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital,
explains how caregivers and families can help support the health
and wellness of older adults in their lives.
My elderly father is very anxious
about the COVID-19 outbreak.
What can I do to help support him?
With all of the uncertainty around the COVID-19
outbreak, it’s understandable that many seniors
are feeling worried.
One of the most important things we can do to
support seniors’ mental health is to touch base
with them, and touch base frequently. Let them
know you’re thinking of them. Ask if they need
any groceries or necessities from stores. Set up
a video call with them. For a senior, knowing that
someone is thinking about them goes a long way for
psychological and emotional well‑being.
My grandmother is not comfortable
using technology. What are some
other ideas for staying connected?
I encourage family and friends of seniors to think
outside of the box about creative ways to connect,
especially if their loved one isn’t comfortable with
Try getting back to basics, such as making a phone
call, handwriting a letter or card with words of
encouragement, or sending a photo. Kids can get
involved too, for example by drawing pictures or
writing their own cards. If your loved one lives in a
long-term care facility, the care team can also help
with suggestions and facilitating these connections.
These simple gestures can go a long way to reminding
our seniors that they are cared for and valued.
I live far away from my 80-year-old
mother, and I’m worried about how
she is coping with daily tasks. How
can I support her?
The current environment can make coping with
daily tasks very challenging for seniors, especially if
family lives far away. Frequent communication is key
to determining how loved ones are managing with
day‑to‑day activities.
For some of the more complex tasks, such as banking
and bill payment, offer to help set up online billing and
automatic payments. Ask friends or family who live
close by to help. Seniors who need support with non-
medical essentials can also register for the Safe Seniors,
Strong Communities program online or by calling bc211.
This program matches B.C. seniors with volunteers
willing to help.
I live in a multigenerational home with
seniors. What can I do to keep the
older loved ones I live with safe?
Preventing the spread of illness is the best thing that
people who live with seniors can do to help keep
them safe.
Everyone should stay home as much as possible, with
one healthy person going out for essential errands, such
as shopping for groceries or picking up medications. Each
person in the home should wash their hands frequently
with soap and water, practise good personal hygiene, and
clean high-touch surfaces, including cell phones.
If a person within the household develops symptoms of
COVID-19, such as a fever or sore throat, it’s important
to isolate as much as possible and follow the guidelines
from the BC Centre for Disease Control.