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Montreal experts advise how to help elderly loved ones through coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Montreal experts advise how to help elderly loved ones through pandemic
WATCH: Quebec seniors have been on voluntary lockdown for almost two months now. The longer this social and physical distancing lasts, the more difficult these lonely conditions are for some to manage. As Global's Felicia Parrillo explains, experts agree that while physical distancing needs to be maintained, some socializing is necessary to maintain morale.

For many elderly people in Montreal, being confined to their homes and physically distanced from those they love has been difficult. In some cases, it has even been crippling.

“A lot of seniors are losing their mobility very quickly, because they’re confined at home, so they’re getting weaker, they’re walking less and less and they’re in need more and more assistance from their family members,” said Dr. Ruby Friedman, director of geriatrics at the Jewish General Hospital.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: NDG community groups help isolated seniors get groceries

Friedman said people over the age of 65 account for around 90-95 per cent of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Underlying health issues also make them vulnerable.

However, too much social isolation is also dangerous, according to Friedman.

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“If you want no risk, you stay home and you don’t open up the door to anybody — but that’s not a sustainable way. That is certainly not a life,” said Friedman.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal seniors defying Quebec’s order to stay home during COVID-19 pandemic

Friedman strongly advises everyone, especially seniors, to follow public health orders during the pandemic. This includes washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, and keeping your distance.

However, physical distancing shouldn’t mean social distancing.

Psychologist Pierre Faubert says it’s important to show up for the elderly people in your life.

Whether that means virtual family dinners, visits through a glass door, or even getting them out onto their balcony.

A granddaughter visiting her grandparents.
A granddaughter visiting her grandparents. Lisa Fiset

“It’s almost like starting a love relationship — a Romeo and Juliet type thing — where my grandmother, or grandfather is on their balcony and I’m telling him or her I love them,” said Faubert.

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If you have a bit more time on your hands to plan something more extravagant, why not try some virtual bingo, like actor Matthew McConaughey?

Matthew McConaughey and his family playing bingo, via Zoom, with residents of the Enclave at Round Rock Senior Living in Round Rock, Tex. in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on April 5, 2020.
Matthew McConaughey and his family playing bingo, via Zoom, with residents of the Enclave at Round Rock Senior Living in Round Rock, Tex. in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on April 5, 2020. Facebook / The Enclave at Round Rock Senior Living

“Whatever is left of life, of love and creativity and imagination in our elderly and in ourselves — well let’s put it to use to bring us together,” said Faubert.