Information for Older Adults and Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Prepare and plan ahead
  • Establish a daily routine
  • Stay connected

Content provided by University of Michigan Geriatric Psychiatry Program

Experts here at U-M have put together some suggestions to help you and your loved ones stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who are 65 years of age or older are especially encouraged to practice social distancing during this time due to their increased risk of severe illness.

Stay home. Stay safe.

In-person visits from family and friends should be limited due to the risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus—but this can increase the risk for loneliness. Worries and anxiety are also heightened during these uncertain times. However, many older adults have exceptional resilience from a lifetime of practice of getting through tough times so don’t underestimate their abilities. We all need to do our part to support one another in creative ways while we are apart, maintaining mental and physical health during social distancing and managing stress is more important than ever!

Prepare and plan ahead

  • Food, paper products, cleaners, and over the counter medications - Try to keep at least a 1-2 week supply in your house and arrange delivery and/or curbside pickup to minimize exposure
  • Prescriptions - Ensure you and your loved ones have an adequate supply of your medications. Most pharmacies will do mail order or free delivery, call and ask if you have questions.
  • Contact list and care plan - Post a list of contact information for key family members/friends and physicians, include any key medical information and a list of prescription medications

Establish a daily routine and be consistent -- this is your anchor!

  • Get up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Maintain regular meal times and try to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water
  • Take a walk (or two) outside - the weather is improving and fresh air is good for the soul and your lungs!
  • Set a daily goal: something small and doable from your to do list
  • Talk to a family member or “buddy” daily

Tips to manage worry and help prevent social distancing from becoming social isolation

  • Replace social distancing with physical distancing - it’s crucial to maintain emotional connections for well-being, stay socially connected by phone (Alexa and Siri can help), Zoom, mail, email, or chat
  • Practice gratitude: we all have something to be grateful for, no matter how small. Write down 1-3 things you are grateful for each day
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Dilute the news, more isn’t better!
  • Pick up an old hobby or tackle a little spring cleaning to stay busy
  • Physical activity: move, stretch, walk, exercise, get outside and enjoy spring weather!
  • Brain exercises: hobbies, puzzles, writing
  • Restorative: deep breathing, meditation, tai chi, yoga
  • Distraction: puzzles, games, reading, TV shows and movies such as musicals, old movies and comedies

How can I support older adults during this time?

  • Set up daily calls or video chats with friends and relatives, arrange deliveries (groceries, meals, etc.) 
  • Have children or grandchildren send notes and artwork
  • Chalk art or notes in driveways of neighbors and family members can spread joy
  • If you live nearby you can arrange “drive-by” visits, wave or visit at a safe distance from the car or through a window
  • Give tech support for social connection - how to video chat, text message, web search, navigate social media, and video and program streaming

How to support older adults living in your home

  • Wash your hands frequently and encourage them to do the same
  • Keep surfaces and frequent touch points disinfected
  • Reinforce the importance of routine
  • Prepare healthy meals
  • Be aware of symptoms - people with dementia may have reduced self-awareness and forget to mention their cough or nausea
  • If you begin to feel ill, minimize physical contact
  • Make a plan for what would happen if you were to get sick. Is there someone else who could provide care or that you could call for assistance?

Suggestions for those with dementia or cognitive impairment

  • People with dementia sense your anxiety/distress and respond to your nonverbal cues more than words. Show a calm and supportive face, practice mindfulness and be present and calm with your loved one
  • Keep the physical environment uncluttered
  • Written reminders to wash their hands with soap and water in the bathroom and other places may help those with cognitive impairment to remember to complete these actions
  • Give the person with dementia a task instead of doing everything for them. They may not do it exactly right but everyone needs purpose in life.
  • Go through and organize pictures. This is a great activity for people with dementia who usually remember past events more than the present.
  • Do something creative or with the arts: Listen to music, play an instrument, look at art, draw or paint.