When Covid-19 hit and older adults realized they were in the high-risk category, no one was sure how to deal with the new reality. It took communities and institutions that work with older adults some time to come to grips with how to start adapting.
“Every community is different and there isn’t one box to fit them all into,” said Sara Leeds from Home Care Assistance.
That makes adapting to the new norm with Covid-19 a harsh reality for some older adults and their caregivers.
Caregiving organizations stepped up protective measures across the country. However, this care had a breadth of variety. Some caregivers were trained with access to safety gear, so they could enter and attend to their clients. However, many assisted living homes stopped allowing caregivers into the facility out of fear of the disease being carried in. Suddenly, regular caregivers were cut off from their clients.
Aging comes with wisdom, so these organizations got creative! The socialization and regular schedule that older adults had prior to COVID-19 was completely interrupted. Whereas, prior to the pandemic there was a holistic and balanced approach to health. Home Care Assistance, like many care providers, helped to balance care through nutrition, physical activity, cognitive development on calmness and purpose, and socializing. According to Leeds, the goal was to help ensure that people live and enjoy life as a whole.
“It is difficult now that they are stuck in their rooms, many will regress,” said Leeds as Home Care Assistance and other caregivers look to what they can do in the future to best help.
Care organizations are meeting together as a community to see how they can support and partner together to provide services to their residents, clients, and patients. In some areas, caregivers can go and check in one-on-one, or specific regions that supplement their staff are still able to work with clients. However, that all depends on the region, community population, and care norms.
Most care and health services are turning to virtual programming either through partnerships or by creating their own programs. Activities that used to be done in person have gone virtual, from singing classes online to live classical concerts being streamed for older adults. The sky's the limit as many staff and nurses are helping to onboard residents in facilities to use digital tools to connect with the outside world from smartphones, to iPad, to laptops.
YouTube hosted play by play series provided by some home care providers to work with mental fitness and assist those with dementia, who have been hit particularly hard as they can’t get their regular care in many locations. Home Care Assistance's MindFit series has filled in to provide a regular 6-week program where once a week the residence receiving MindFit activities online until in-person care can return. Life enrichment guides are taking residents on virtual tours of museums or hosting virtual yoga classes.
However, the greatest tool to add value has been teaching older adults how to use technology in order to independently socialize and connect with friends and family. With nurses and staff often overworked, many individuals and care providers are turning to GetSetUp to help onboard older adults, so they can independently use and understand the technology resources at their fingertips.
From initial technology skills like using an iPad or how to join a Zoom meeting, GetSetup then goes on to offer a host of other classes on a range of topics like health & wellness, creativity, and business skills that these older adults can continue as a part of the GetSetUp community.
GetSetUp also provides economic opportunities to older adults to teach their peers a variety of skills through live interactive virtual classes. Learners participate together to ‘do’ an activity — not just watch — and can get their questions answered then and there — live.
Furthermore, GetSetUp has launched fun engaging Social Hours with a range of different topics from entertainment to meditating together where peers come to share their knowledge.
Organizations partnered with GetSetUp, like the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, some YMCAs, and Avida Home Care then provide their older adults access to live interactive classes to give them a safe way to socialize and learn right from their room.
Learning in turn stimulates neuroplasticity, creates purpose, and best of all provides shared experiences to help prevent the negative side effects of loneliness.
What shifts is your organization making to ensure the health and well-being of the older adults in your community?
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“I can honestly say if I went to an interview and they asked me certain questions, now I’m familiar with those tools and I wasn’t before GetSetUp classes.”
“My niece is too polite to call me old. I knew she was thinking it was a shock that I knew more about Zoom than she did. So I told her - ‘ . . . I might be a bit slower,.