PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The first year of the pandemic claimed so many activities that are important to families in the care of elderly or disabled loved ones.
As Mother’s Day 2021 approaches, the governor of Virginia has loosened some restrictions at care facilities to allow families to reunite after long and painful periods of separation.
But before you make any plans, Maura Horton has some advice. Her husband Don, a former college football coach, died four years ago of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 58.
“He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and that forever changed our lives,” said Horton.
Horton’s husband was the football coach, but now she is the ‘Care Coach’ who offers families assistance in caring for seniors and others who have faced heartbreaking isolation during the pandemic.
Horton says people should “tackle” physical and mental health separately.
“Make sure they are continuing to move; stay active even if it’s in your own home in your yard,” said Horton.
She also suggests you check in with members of a loved one’s care team who can share detailed information on neurological changes that may have taken place while the patient was in isolation.
“A lot of cognitive challenges have come up during the pandemic, so you want to have a forewarning — if you will — before going in and meeting them,” said Horton.
Horton warns visiting family members may not spread the virus because they have been vaccinated, but they are fully capable of spreading anxiety if they become alarmed about a senior’s mental and physical health.
The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has found that social isolation or loneliness in older adults is associated with a 50% increased risk of developing dementia, a 30% increased risk of incident coronary artery disease or stroke, and a 26% increased risk of all-cause mortality.
Horton says take your time with loved ones and enjoy the moment.
“Dial it back a little bit. Don’t take them to Costco on your first outing. Maybe it’s the library or the coffee shop,” said Horton.
Maura is hopeful President Joe Biden’s proposal for better pay for those who care for the elderly under his redefined stimulus plan will offer solutions for families who are disappointed with care in nursing homes and other facilities.
“I think we’ve learned a lot through the pandemic on whether people actually want to be in a nursing facility. People are pulling their loved ones out [of nursing homes] at record numbers, so you want to look at what you can do in your home,” said Horton.