May 25, 2020
LANSING, Mich. — With the governor of Michigan extending the stay-at-home order until May 28, many Michiganders are struggling with how long it’s been since they have seen and interacted with their loved ones. This is especially true for loved ones who are older with underlying health conditions who may be at an increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
Loneliness can also have a major impact on people’s mental and physical health. “In the Geropsychiatry unit we are already navigating these social vulnerabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a big challenge to maintain healthy communications and interactions during social isolation,” said Farha Abbasi, MD, psychiatrist at McLaren Geropsychiatry unit and member of the City of Lansing Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force.
It’s as important as ever to stay connected with loved ones. Here are some ways you can connect with your loved ones in and out of the hospital.
1. Visiting virtually
Using social media or another video chatting service, set-up scheduled hours for you and your loved ones to have a visit. Even if it’s virtual it helps to see your family members’ faces and hear their voices. You may even play games or host a virtual concert of your shared favorite music.
2. Sending care packages
You can send your loved ones gifts, cards, and letters, and you can even drop off food.
“In the Geropsychiatry unit it can be hard for our patients to comprehend why their families and loved ones aren’t visiting. They can perceive it as rejection and not being wanted any more. These gifts and personal letters can be assuring and ease their anxieties,” said Dr. Abbasi.
3. Celebrating moments
Take extra time during special occasions and holidays to check in with your loved ones. Historically birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other celebrations are spent with friends and family. These days can be especially hard during isolation.
4. Limiting news exposure
While it’s a good idea to stay informed, watching news can create unnecessary anxiety and depression. When talking with your loved ones, try to keep the conversation to happy memories or events.
5. Breaking the routine
“While ensuring social distancing, we have been taking our patients for short walks around the building, praying with a faith leader, or getting them a special treat,” said Dr. Abbasi.
If your loved ones are at home, try helping them find ways to change up their routine. Encourage them to go outside, exercise, or go for a drive.
May is national Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s more important than ever that we are supporting our family and loved one’s mental health. Dr. Abbasi says, “to care is to cure.”