Recently, my family had occasion to experience the world of isolation, one of the biggest challenges for seniors, especially in pandemic times.
Our older son was hospitalized in a month-long battle with COVID-19.
For more than two weeks of his hospital stay, there was very little communication possible between us due to hospital restrictions and treatment protocol. For our family, these were the scariest weeks of our lives. We had no idea if our son would live or die and were unable to learn if his condition was improving or degrading.
For our son, the isolation was even worse. He was in a medically- and COVID-induced fog, not able to discern the real and imagined. He had no reference points he could trust. One day, he asked to speak with someone from the hospital security department because he works in the security industry and trusts people in the field.
In isolation, our minds can play awful tricks on us!
Before my son’s illness and his recent discharge from the hospital, I thought I had a good understanding about isolation, but our brush with COVID proved I wasn’t even close.
With the pandemic forcing many of us into isolation and loneliness, even at home, there are two important points to remember. COVID is very real and isolation is very scary, if not incapacitating.
But we can all help. If you know someone going through COVID or just living alone, reach out to them. Make contact periodically to see how they are doing and bring a friendly, comforting voice to their daily routine. Share a piece of your life with them and make sure they are doing OK.
I ask you to reach out, not just because of COVID but on an ongoing basis to those living on their own, in nursing homes or otherwise living apart from their families.
If you personally cannot make the contact, try to connect the person with a local organization that can help. Isolation is extremely disabling regardless of the cause, and we need to seek out those caught in such situations.
Ron Smith is a Maricopa resident and an aging-in-place advocate. He is a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition and a certified Aging-in-Place specialist (CAPS).
This column appeared in the February issue of InMaricopa magazine.