While self-isolation reduces the risk of coronavirus, it also raises a number of other health and wellbeing challenges for seniors. If you are a senior feeling the effects of isolation or you want to help a senior, here are some ideas from our CAREGivers.

With social distancing and self-isolation forecast to remain in place for several months, it is a new reality seniors are still adjusting to.

In addition to the widely reported mental health implications of isolation, we are starting to come across other impacts on seniors… So for seniors who live independently at home, here are 7 ways to care for yourself during self-isolation.

1. Audit the safety of your home

To reduce their risk of injury, many seniors will wait until a family member drops by for help with tasks like getting a heavy item off a high shelf. But with visits limited, we’ve been hearing from both seniors and their families that they’re worried about accidents happening.

So to ensure you or a senior you know can go about their day safely in the home, do a safety audit to check for things such as:

  • Loose railings
  • Unsteady furniture
  • Trip hazards like rugs
  • Grab rails in the bathroom

A full checklist of ways to make the home safe for seniors can be found here. Our CAREGivers are also able to identify items for fixing, and help you rearrange shelves and cupboards so things are easier to reach.

2. Create a regular routine

Mental health experts recommend routines to give each day a sense of purpose. While your routine will be different during self-isolation, try to think of ways you can add structure to your day.

Your routine can include simple things like getting dressed every morning and doing your hair, as well as checking in with family at a certain time, chores around the home, reading, working on a hobby project and daily exercise (more on this below).

3. Maintain daily exercise

Being in self-isolation means you may not be able to do your regular fitness activities, such as going out for walks, playing lawn bowls or attending a group exercise class.

But staying strong is important for overall wellbeing, brain health and living independently. So keep fit by trying home-based physical activities, such as gardening and indoor exercise. This Exercise for Seniors guide has gentle exercises you can do in your living room.

4. Try meaningful activities

Keeping your mind stimulated is an important way to manage your mental health during self-isolation.

By having activities to do, you’ll be less tempted to switch on the TV, which could result in you watching more news than necessary (limiting news intake to once or twice a day is an effective way to reduce anxiety and overwhelm).

Activities you could try include:

• Organise your photos
• Start writing a memoir or some fiction
• Try a new hobby such as painting, dancing or learning a language
Start writing to a Pen Pal
• Do a daily puzzle like a crossword or Soduku
• Make a picture book for your grandkids
Sew face masks for yourself or to donate to the community

If you’re keen to start a new hobby but are unable to go out for the necessary supplies, ask your family, CAREGiver or neighbours to pick them up for you.

5. Ask for home help if you need it

Even though things are different right now, in-home care is still operating. This is a solution for seniors who can no longer receive help from family or the community.

So if you feel as though you need companionship, help with chores or picking up medicine and groceries, or someone to assist with activities such as showering or exercising, you are not alone. Respite care is also available for seniors who are the primary carer for their spouse and need a break.

You can discuss the idea with your family, or reach out to us directly to learn how it works.

6. Follow official health recommendations

The latest health and hygiene advice for older Australians is regularly updated on the Australian Government website, and this is the best place to find accurate information.

If you have a question or need specific information, the government is also operating a 24-hour national coronavirus hotline: 1800 020 080.

7. Find ways to protect your mental health

Routine, exercise, limited news intake and activities are all positive things you can do for your mental health during COVID-19.

But there may be times when you experience feelings of loneliness or overwhelm. While this is a normal reaction to the situation, there are ways you can cope with these feelings and help them to pass. These include:

  • Keeping in touch with loved ones via phone calls or email
  • Remembering that you are resilient and have dealt with difficult situations before
  • Reminding yourself that self-isolation won’t be forever

Accessing home help during COVID-19

In-home care services for seniors are still operating, so we can continue to support older Australians living in their own homes. Plus, the government has increased funding to support Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) providers.

Find out how home care works here, or see our response to COVID-19 here.