Mom feels isolated

4.3
(10)

A new member question from Ask the Doctor.

A member wrote to Dr. Warren:

My mother has been missing church services which is her primary community. She volunteers as a greeter so it’s been difficult not having that sense of community and she is feeling isolated. She’s not technically savvy but a few friends have called. All her regular outings (errands, shopping) has stopped. Now she’s at home, sits, and takes on physically demanding projects like cleaning, closets. She is able to send out a multitude of greeting cards to friends. That’s her main connection to others. Trying to find anything to fill the time. How do I support my mom during this time? I am long-distance caregiver and connect with her by phone at least twice a day.


Dr. Warren replied:

Hi Denise,
Wow!! Your Mother is so fortunate to have such a caring daughter, long distance or not. It also sounds like you’re lucky to have a mother who is usually very active and engaged.

COVID-19 has drastically changed all our lives. I’m finding that people are having different emotional responses, some are feeling a manageable and normal amount of distress while others are becoming quite anxious.  You might ask your mother “How are you, Mom?” Then pause and allow some time for her to express her emotions.  Sometimes a person feels better just by sharing emotions that are listened to with compassion. Avoid the temptation to say “you shouldn’t feel that way”.

She is already staying connected by writing cards. My guess is that her church community misses her just as much as she misses them. Does the church need her to call members of the congregation or help in other ways? It’s also wonderful that you communicate regularly. Be sure to talk about your life when you chat and be ready to share some laughs and maybe a prayer.

“Physically demanding projects” sounds a bit strenuous. Here are some links to exercise brochures that you can send to your mother: 

https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/patient.html

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-older-adults-can-get-started-exercise#started.

Hobbies are a great way to enjoy the day and exercise the brain. Does she enjoy magazines, jigsaw or word puzzles? Does she have old photos to organize that all of you would treasure?  Don’t forget that finding out about your mother’s life is a gift for everyone. This can be something you do with her on your telephone calls or she can do it on her own. There are many books that ask simple questions such as “Who was your favorite teacher?”

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-04-27-vw-1832-story.html

Pulling it all together, get a sense of how your mother is doing emotionally. Realize that this too will pass. If your mother is overwhelmed, reach out for help, perhaps from her church. You’re already doing a lot, think of ways to make your phone calls a great opportunity to deepen your relationship under exceptional circumstances. Down the line, both you and your mother will be able to say: “We made it!!”

Aloha,
Dr. Warren

Be Connected, Stay Strong

PS  Your mother may not be tech savvy but many older people are learning and enjoying the benefits of staying connected.  Some tablets and smartphones applications are designed specifically for seniors. Keep this in mind for the next time you get together. You’ll be more prepared and your mother will feel like she is able to learn new skills!!

Stay tuned for our upcoming videos on this topic!

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