It is completely understandable to experience a mixture of highs and lows as we start to come out of lockdown (again). Many will be embracing the easing of restrictions, glad to be back outside – catching up with friends and family, shopping, eating out and of course getting their hair done! However, for others and particularly the elderly who have been the main casualty of COVID 19 pandemic, there may well be fear and trepidation.
After months spent indoors, you might find your elderly parent or relative isn’t motivated to start socialising again or may be nervous to go out because their mobility has declined. It’s likely that they have become used to a new way of life over the past year and while there may be aspects of their old life that they’ve really missed such as seeing friends and family, it’s also normal for them to feel anxious about what’s around the corner.
Also, with unanswered questions about the Delta (‘Indian’) variant of Covid-19 and conflicting ‘expert’ advice, is it any wonder that people are feeling anxious? There’s no right or wrong way to start getting out and about post Lockdown and many decisions come down to attitudes to risk and how important certain activities are to a person’s wellbeing.
Read our 5 practical tips to help you and your elderly relative take the first steps out of Lockdown …..
1. Stay Safe
Lockdown restrictions vary across the country and are constantly under review so it’s understandable if older relatives are a little unsure on what they can and can’t do.
Face coverings and social distancing are still in place and these can make going out much more daunting. For some – such as people living with dementia, sight loss, or a mental health condition – following the guidelines might be difficult and cause even more anxiety about doing it wrong or how others will respond.
If an elderly relative is worried about socially distancing, you could download a ‘give me space’ badge from the government website. This lets people know that they find it hard to socially distance and asks people to keep their distance and be kind.
Also, if you’re unable to wear a face covering, you can download or print off Exemption From Face Covering badges and cards.
Having access to the correct facts will help you and them to feel more confident. It’s important to make sure information and advice comes from sources that are up-to-date, trustworthy and evidence-based. We suggest keeping up-to-date with the latest guidance on Coronavirus at gov.uk.
2. Go at your own pace
Whilst others might be rushing around here, there and everywhere, it’s important not to get swept along or let this cause unnecessary pressure to do the same.
Navigating situations they haven’t been in for a long time will undoubtedly cause anxiety and the key is to take things one step at a time. Encourage elderly relatives to go at their own pace and not to compare their experience to anyone else’s.
Chances are they’re not alone and someone they know will be feeling exactly the same. Suggest they open up to friends and perhaps find a buddy and work together on coming out of Lockdown.
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3. Plan ahead
You don’t have to do everything all at once!
Get your elderly parents or relatives to think about what they would be comfortable doing – for example, visiting a friend inside their house. Together you can then start planning how to get there, how long to stay, how far apart to sit, if they’re happy to hug and of course what cake they’re going to take!
By planning each social scenario in advance, it’s easier to identify what is making them feel uncomfortable and then try and work a way around it to reduce post lockdown anxiety. For example if public transport is a concern, can you arrange for them to travel at a quieter time of day or find another mode of transport? Perhaps a friend or family member could give them a lift on their first trip out.
We recommend making a list of the things they’d like to do ( in line with the lifting of Lockdown restrictions) and celebrate as they tick them off one by one. With each tick will come greater confidence.
Once they are ready to go out to a restaurant or the shops, try these 5 simple steps to keeping the infection risk as low as possible:
- Try and get a table outdoors rather than indoors. Sit facing away from people you don’t live with, if possible.
- Pick quieter days/times.
- Do one big shop instead of lots of small ones.
- Use contactless payment rather than cash.
- Try not to socialise more than once in a day.
4. Take time
One of the positive side effects of the Covid 19 pandemic was that people had more time and less to do with it. As a result, we were able to enjoy the simple things in life like walking, cooking meals and reading!
As life starts to get back to normal post Lockdown, it’s far too easy to slip back into bad habits of doing too much and suffering because of it. If you or an elderly parent are nervous about getting out and about, that’s OK – own it and turn it into a positive life decision. Don’t be afraid to turn down invitations and take the opportunity to re-evaluate how often you/they go to clubs or see people. Use this experience to finally achieve a good life balance.
5. Tech Up
Over the last year, the world has embraced ‘online’ and with that has come a huge surge in technological advances in communication, shopping, activities and caring from a distance. Whilst we understand that these developments can’t make up for real human contact, it has brought an element of practical ease to our existence, especially for those who are less able or mobile.
The key of course is being online and whilst the pandemic has resulted in a whole new generation of Silver Surfers there are still many who are not connected.
If an elderly relative is anxious about leaving the house, perhaps gently encourage and help them to get online as a first step to being more social. Now family can meet indoors, setting up and explaining some of the technology will be much easier. We have lots of useful guides on setting up apps and digital platforms. Trust us, we know first hand that it can be a hard sell , but worth it when they can have a cuppa and a chat with friends when the weather is bad or they simply don’t feel up to leaving the house.
You might notice that an elderly relative’s mobility has declined over Lockdown. Sadly, being housebound will have had an impact, especially if they haven’t managed to exercise regularly. This is highly likely to be a concern when it comes to getting out and about. It might be time to think about getting mum/dad a personal alarm, so you can feel confident that help is at hand if they happen to take a fall or get in distress. There are lots of great products out there, even alarms that look like Fitbit watches for the more fashion conscious! Check out our Best Personal Alarm page and GPS trackers page.
The pandemic has affected people in many ways, so getting out and about post Lockdown will be different for everyone. We hope our tips will help, and remember, small steps can make a big difference! However, if you are concerned about an elderly relative’s mental health, contact their GP for further advice and referral to other services.