Social isolation among seniors is not a new phenomenon. Chronic health issues, loss of hearing and vision, loss of a spouse or friends, and ageism in North American society render older adults at risk of isolation and the associated physical and mental health consequences such as weakened immune systems, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Research suggests the negative effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this pre-existing problem, often adding multiple barriers to already isolating circumstances. With limited access to family and friends due to social distancing guidelines, home care agencies and their staff have become lifelines for seniors isolated due to the pandemic.
While many people are staying connected through video conferencing and social media, older adults cannot necessarily take advantage of these options on their own. With limited knowledge of the technology that many of us take for granted in our everyday lives, older adults can rely on home care workers to help bridge the gap between staying safe at home and remaining connected to their families and communities.
For this reason, in-home caregiving has become increasingly important for seniors struggling to stay connected throughout COVID-19. Home care workers cover a wide range of services and go by a number of titles. Some are registered nurses, others are certified personal support workers, home health aides, care navigators, or companions. Regardless of the official scope of their practice, home care workers have proven an invaluable human connection and resource for seniors cut off from their usual community and social activities.
In-home caregivers are in a unique position to facilitate the use of technology for seniors who lack confidence in using their internet-based devices. According to Forbes, over half of Americans age 65 or older own a smartphone, and 73% are internet users. Citing Pew Research Center analysis, Forbes reports that the main barrier for older adults when it comes to technology is not a lack of access, but frustration with devices and software they simply don’t understand how to navigate.
In-home caregivers are often able to help clients set up video calls that connect them to their loved ones, religious services, and appointments. They can help log in to messaging services, set up social media accounts, and even help with typing, enlarging screen settings, and increasing/decreasing volume. Having a guiding hand when it comes to technology can be the difference between connecting with friends, family, community, and professional services, or a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer going unused.
In-home care navigators can also set up older adults with community supports beyond their immediate services. This is particularly true for overextended PSWs or nurses who would love to connect further with their clients but lack the time during appointments. Caregivers and companions can act as a vital link to a number of telephone-based services that have been expanded in the wake of COVID-19.
For example, the University of Toronto’s Student Senior Isolation Prevention Partnership (SSIPP) connects health professional students with seniors in the community. The goal of the program is to improve seniors’ quality of life by enabling them to feel valued and socially connected. Recently, chapters have opened up across Canada including Western University, University of Ottawa, University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, McMaster University, Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the University of British Columbia.
In the Windsor-Essex area, Life After Fifty has maintained their telephone outreach and activity programs. Their Seniors’ Centre Without Walls is a free telephone-based activities program with everything from safe morning stretches, to comedy, to crafting, to arm chair travel. Participants are encouraged to share their stories and connect with their peers.
Here at Homecare Hub, we recently launched our Senior Chat Line. This telephone companionship service is free to any senior living in Canada. Whether you or your loved one wants to speak with someone on a weekly basis or only when you feel like it, this service offers a friendly voice and a listening ear between 9-5pm Monday-Friday. The number is 1-888-CARE-080.
As COVID-19 restrictions continue to limit our traditional daily activities, in-home caregiving is more important than ever before. While setting up technology or explaining telephone services may go beyond the realm of conventional home care, top quality home care services are known to go above and beyond to ensure the well-being of their clients, including keeping them connected to the world around them.
Homecare Hub connects you to a full suite of Reliable, COVID Safe, Accredited, and Affordable home care services in your area. We have curated our site to only list vetted, top quality agencies with transparent pricing for you or your loved ones.
We strive to support our clients in maintaining their independence and dignity by simplifying the process of finding the best home care near you. Find your top local agencies at www.homecarehub.com or call 1-888-227-3080 to talk through your situation and see how Homecare Hub can help. We offer complimentary community care navigation to help point you in the right direction.
Maggie Clapperton is a social worker and content creator at Homecare Hub.