There are a lot of unknowns right now. If you are looking out for an older loved one—a parent, a spouse, a friend—and are not sure what to do or say, you are not alone. For those with older loved ones in your lives, here are some tips on how to talk to seniors about COVID-19 and the current events.
1. Be factual without being alarmist
Say, “People ages 60 and older are at higher risk for this. That means for getting it and for getting very sick, especially if you have other medical conditions. I care about you and I want you to stay healthy and safe.”
2. Share how you are taking this seriously
You are following all of the recommendations—hygiene, social distancing and more. Be sure they know that and explain why. “I will leave groceries on the doorstep. Even though I feel fine, I could be a carrier and I don’t want to risk it.” Visit reputable sources together: the CDC, the World Health Organization and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
3. Strategize with each other
Start by asking, “What is causing you the most anxiety?” and come up with a plan for that. If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other community, know their plan. If they live at home and the worry is becoming ill, say you will call their doctor first. With the all-clear to be at home, you will plan to follow these steps from the CDC.
4. Offer your help (again)
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, no matter how old you are. Say, “We are always here to support one another. Please rely on me during this time.” What could be a tricky task for them might be quite simple for you, like placing an order online.
5. Prioritize self-care
For them and for you. Say, “This is a stressful time. We all need and deserve breaks.” Suggest a walk around the block or a half hour of stillness with the news off. It’s not frivolous. It’s wise. And it’s an important part of taking care of your own health.
6. Stay in touch
If you’re long distance or keeping your distance, come up with a plan to connect regularly. Ask, “How often would you like me to call?” Or text or video chat—whatever method they prefer. And get others in their circle involved, like family, friends and neighbors. They can also sign up for AgeWell Pittsburgh’s CheckMates program (412-422-0400) to get weekly check-in calls from a trained volunteer.
If you or your older loved on is in need of additional resources at this time, please see our regularly updated list of resources in Allegheny County, including resources specific to seniors.
You can also contact United Way’s 2-1-1 line, which is open 24/7 to provide general information about health questions related to the virus, as well as questions about food, rent and utility payments. Dial 2-1-1, text your zip code to 898-211, or visit PA211sw.org. Sign up to receive alerts with the most up-to-date information and resources at pa211sw.org/text-alerts.