Lessons on Isolation (and more) with Seniors

There is an epidemic of loneliness among our seniors. The recent COVID epidemic is affecting us and our elder population in a myriad of ways: from social distancing, isolation and a deprivation of the connections and touch that are essential to health and well-being. As someone on the front lines of care and service in the community or industry adjacent– you are in a unique position to help support!

In this article we bring some exciting insights for you and what you can do to educate seniors, caregivers and families on some practical ways to help our elders build a tribe of caring companions as an important component to solving the loneliness problem.

Sixth Sense Solutions connected with Christine Baumgartner of The Perfect Catch, a boutique dating and relationship coaching service with a senior focus. For the last twelve years, Christine has worked with singles, who are ready to finally have a loving partner in their life. Christine specializes in clients who are willing to tackle what’s keeping that love away, so they’ll finally attract (or keep, as she works with couples as well) the committed loving relationship they desire and deserve.

In her coaching service, Christine is very PASSIONATE about helping others in this area. She has a high number of seniors from ages 50-80’s+ who take part in her classes, 1-1 coaching, and leverage her coaching expertise in finding companionship.

You can imagine the unique challenges a quarantine brings to everyone, especially seniors. We are all collectively experiencing this challenge in some way. We illustrate some lessons we learned from Christine (who was the relationship success coach for John Gray who wrote Men are from Mars Women are from Venus) along with a few simple suggestions to consider and use in all our relationships during the quarantine.

Disparity of Connection and Internet Savviness
Connecting with others is vital to our emotional and mental wellbeing. The internet is a great tool to stay connected with peers, family members and other loved ones, especially during a time of quarantine. Compared to the rest of the population, seniors aren’t necessarily as tech savvy as other generations. Caregivers can play a crucial role in helping seniors by providing support and instructions to connect with friends, neighbors and loved ones.

Connecting with Peers
Christine points out the importance of peer to peer contact and has some great suggestions she has recommended and personally uses with her friends and clients. During this time, some adult children have been able to spend more time with their elderly loved ones that need care due to the quarantine orders.

Contact with other family members, such as with adult children, is a great side effect for some families that are close in proximity, but also limiting due to the concern with potential asymptomatic carriers for the virus. Overall, it has been difficult for the elderly to see their peers and connect. This connection is very important. Encouraging and helping seniors in this area can help enhance an important aspect that is central to a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s get everyone on Zoom!
It’s not just a great tool for collaborating on work from home. Whether it’s Zoom, Skype or Facetime, now is a great time to get our seniors more familiar as well as familiarizing our caregivers to help our seniors become more adept with these types of mediums of communications. This is something that can help set the table for other care strategies such as remote patient monitoring (RPM)and other telehealth applications. Integrated care for example, Telehealth, high touch and the care team feedback loop is a growing and increasingly important to delivering effective high touch care in the home over the long term. RPM is a growing area that assists in support with care goals, helping to make care more cost effective and efficient over time.

“Social” Gatherings
Christine suggests a Netflix party. Pick a movie, send the link, and everyone can watch together in a shared experience! Everybody interacts during the movie, “you talk about the snacks friends are munching on, and this is a great way for seniors (and anyone) to have intimate interaction with peers in their own generation, pass the time and feel connected”.

All you have to do is download an extension and easy to do instructions:Netflix extension

Vent Responsibly:
Christine points out the importance of sharing our feelings and regurgitating all the emotional gunk and toxic buildup from our fears and insecurities. We need to complain and release that valve. “Set a timer, take 10 minutes for each person to individually to moan and groan. When the timer goes off, stop the vent. Then steer the conversation to something else more positive. We want to avoid complaining too long, because it can have the opposite effect. We then feel even worse”.

So, schedule a limited amount of time to complain, express our upsets, get is all out, and then focus on more positive topics. You’ll feel better and keep your outlook on the more optimistic side of things.

Multiple Ways to Get Rid of Toxicity
Complaining with limits is one way to get rid of the toxicity. Humor is another effective way to cope and deal with things outside of our control. Share with friends what positive things are happening, watch funny movies, read, share interesting or funny memes. One of my personal favorites is the meme of the dad who shares how previous generations went to war, and “ all I have to do is sit on the couch for a few weeks, watch TV and eat and save the world?! Let’s not mess this up America!”

Christine shared another thing she did recently – getting together with her neighbors at “a distance”, adhering to the 6-foot rule. They could all see each other, and shared time, even while separated standing in their yards. Then went back to their respective houses. Being in the presence of others is important to our wellbeing. Depending on the physical health and shape the senior is in, if they can get up and walk, you can still find ways to get outside, share and see people even from a distance.

Dating Rules – 50 /50 on Quarantine Compliance with Couples
Christine has been closely watching the threads on social media and heuristically it seems about a 50/50 split from those dating couples that decide to stay apart and take the quarantine more textbook, and 50% who still get together. “There are elderly couples who have separate houses and don’t generally combine resources. They accept deliveries for food, are limiting anyone (caregiver or family members) from visiting and experiencing isolation more acutely.” Generally, people over 50 are staying apart, whereas dating couples in their 30’s 40s are less stringent about visiting.

Isolation has been hard for couples. Texting, Facetime, zooming only fills the gap so much. And this is experienced differently amongst those that are divorced, widowed, single and couples. Christine herself who is a widow and has been divorced, can personally relate to what someone in either scenario (a divorcee or widow) might be going through. Isolation is “especially hard for widowed people who particularly miss physical touch. The need for physical touch is more intense for a widow/widower and brings its own challenges. Those who have lost someone can often get involved in relationships too soon and while it can work out, they tend to experience the downfall of getting involved too quickly”

Those that are divorced “miss (physical touch), but they also are often angry and need to take the time to work through this as it can often be a barrier to intimate relationships. Often, they are still mad at one man or woman – and that can transpose to other people, and they seem much more standoffish”. Working with a relationship coach, a therapist and someone who is tuned in to help draw someone out are great ways to help someone get back into healthy relationships.

Touch Deprivation: WE MISS HUGS!
In a previous article we discussed the importance of touch and the important work The Massage Inc was doing with geriatric massage. The quarantine has been hard on their business and especially their customers as therapists aren’t able to physically visit. There is an overall touch deprivation happening that is more specifically felt by seniors. Caregivers can be very helpful in this area. A hand on the arm, a gentle rub on their back, some sort of physical attention gives them another level of help to combat this loneliness and deprivation hunger.

Christine is a hugger and if your anything like me… WE MISS HUGS! There is a big touch deficit as we can’t touch during this time like we were prior to COVID and have that regular hug contact.
Christine offers some insights on “how do we sooth ourselves and practice self-care? Putting on lotion, bath salts, putting on soft clothes, being conscientious of things that can provide tactile stimulation”

Building Resilience

Christine suggest personally to take inventory. At Sixth Sense Solutions we are big fans of this process of taking inventory and now is a great time for reflection, debrief and both personal and organizational learning. Ask: what good/positive came out of this? What tools, resources are we using; what did we gain with these new interactions, use of technology in a different way, and how can this set the table for future strategies?

Biggest lessons come from Hard Things
The Japanese have philosophy called: Kintsukuroi. Christine was excited to see Kintsukuroi in action. When Porcelain breaks, the Japanese don’t just fix it in a way where the crack disappears. They melt gold and fill the cracks in the porcelain with gold. This way it honors the break and the crack as part of the essence of the porcelain. “You don’t hide the crack; you reveal it as it makes the piece stronger and offers a unique beauty. You’ll see the vein of gold through the cracks – it will have that scar – we mend it with gold. You move on, yet you have this place in your heart for the past and make room for another person, for more love”.

We encourage you during this time to apply your own personal insights, stories and approaches to build your outreach and a community strategy that will give a boost in your marketing.
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Schedule a discovery meeting with Sixth Sense Solutions today. Visit our appointment calendar at https://SixthSenseDiscoveryMeeting.as.me/, call us at 949-241-6690, or you can reach our team via email at info@SixSenseSolutions.com