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How can we cope with difficult times in the age of COVID-19?

by Emily Koelsch | Contributor
May 2, 2020

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We are living in unprecedented times. Cornoavirus COVID-19 is changing how we live daily. Let’s begin with what this virus is and how you can cope with the mental and physical strain of being confined. Although this is a time of extraordinary stress, it is also a time of opportunity to learn new ways of communicating, socializing and keeping physically active.

What is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”

The symptoms are not unlike the common cold with fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, not everyone has all of these symptoms. Most people recover after about two weeks. But, other more compromised individuals can develop severe problems breathing, requiring hospitalization.

How the virus spreads and why seniors are most at risk

Understanding how the virus spreads, not only protects you, it protects others. Through mandatory social distancing, the virus slows and doesn’t overwhelm the health care system. There is no vaccine at this time for the virus.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, this is what we currently know about how the disease spreads:

  • The disease is spread from person to person. At this point, it is believed that a 6-foot radius is the distance that the virus can spread.
  • The virus is spread through respiratory droplets. This means if an infected person is within 6 feet of you and coughs or sneezes, these droplets may reach you.
  • Contaminated surfaces. If an infected person touches a surface and then you touch that surface, you are at risk for infection. This is why the CDC is recommending that people not touch their faces.

Most assisted living communities across the country now have stay-at-home directives along with mandatory 14-day quarantines for anyone who leaves the community and returns. Families are not allowed to visit. For people living at home, the same restrictions apply.

Why is home confinement and social isolation a problem?

People have different responses to time alone. We all have a unique tolerance for social activity. But we all need human contact and stimulation. Let’s look at some of the negative consequences of too much time alone and why this current pandemic situation is such a challenge.

  • Social isolation can lead to loneliness. After a lifetime of a profession or raising a family, adjusting to those losses can be difficult. Loneliness is the result of the loss of friends, colleagues and family. At this time, social isolation is mandatory and not voluntary which compounds the problem.
  • Loneliness can be deadly. Studies have shown that loneliness can increase mortality, cause cognitive problems and impair the immune system response.
  • Confinement at home can lead to a decrease in activity. When people can’t get out of the house, they get less activity. Less activity means loss of physical function that can accelerate over time. If you are confined to a room or an apartment due to restrictions, this can be a big challenge.
  • Anxiety about the unknown. If you or anyone you know was alive during World War II, a common refrain is this: “We didn’t know if and when it would end.” The same can be said about this situation. Control what you can and you will feel better.

How to cope with being confined

There are several ways to combat social isolation and loneliness. Creative use of your time will help you manage. The lessons you learn during this pandemic will serve you well now and in the future.

  • Use technology. If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of technology, this is a great time to learn. Yes, it can be scary, but you have time on your hands. Enlist the help of your children or grandchildren (remotely). Skype, FaceTime and other programs allow you to visit with family and friends. The face-to-face connection can’t take the place of actually seeing someone, but it is a great alternative.

The ability to use the Internet can be a valuable diversion and social interaction tool. Facebook, Instagram and even email allow you to stay connected with family.

  • Exercise anyway you can. Walk, do chair exercises, look at videos online specifically for older adults. Movement is critical. Keep moving in whatever way possible to keep your physical function and prevent decline.
  • Virtual tours. You don’t have to leave home to enjoy world travel. Tap into virtual tours of museums and sites across the world.
  • Audible and other audiobook options. Can’t get to the library or your library is closed? No problem! Investigate all of the audiobook options available to download books. Some have a monthly cost, but others are free. Check out the options here.
  • Participate in activities whenever possible. If you live in a senior community and can access activities, do so. Try something different and meet new people.
  • Challenge yourself to learn a new skill. There are endless new skills you can learn at home. Everything from languages, art and handicrafts.
  • Words.Word games in particular can keep your mind active. Consider jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku. Don’t forget about online games like solitaire, Words with Friends and hundreds of others.
  • Writing.If you can write, try it out. Whether it is journaling or a story you have been burning to tell, now might be the time to do it. Perhaps this is a good time to write your personal history for your children and grandchildren.
  • Humor.Humor can help you cope and reduce anxiety. Watch movies or funny television shows. Subscribe to Netflix or Hulu to expand your options and view from the comfort and safety of your home.

Coping now and for the future

The challenge of these times cannot be underestimated. But, with focus, effort, and creativity, you can develop positive habits that will last a lifetime.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial planners and retirement income certified professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and help you to achieve your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling 888-864-2542 today.

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