Although many places are still under strict lockdowns right now, I can’t help but think ahead to when this all will be over. I want to believe that it will be easy for everything to go back to normal, but I know that my already anxious grandfather will have increased anxiety about going outdoors even after it’s considered safe for him to do so.
He’s generally in good health, but he is still considered at risk due to his age. We’ve recently had to decrease our family visits and our walks around his local park in order to keep him safe. We still try to communicate via video chats, but it’s certainly not the same and I’m excited to return to in-person visits as soon as we can.
I want to start encouraging him to relax now and prepare him for going on our afternoon walks again once we’re allowed — but I want to be sure I’m doing so properly. Do you have any advice on how I can ease my grandfather’s anxieties about leaving the house once quarantine has ended?
Dear Hopeful Grandson,
Thank you for reaching out. We’re all in similar situations where we’re wondering what things will look like on the other side of this. We’re not sure what life will look like post-pandemic, but we know many people will probably feel as anxious as your grandfather. The pandemic as a whole has made many of us feel helpless and shown us how much of life we really can’t control. Returning to normal after lockdowns have been lifted may be difficult for many of us.
It’s great that you want to help your grandfather feel safe when returning to your normal family activities. However, part of reassuring someone involves giving them the choice of when they’re ready to reenter the world. It would be helpful to remind your grandfather that he is in control of his life and his choices. While he can’t control how and when outside restrictions are lifted, he can choose to continue wearing a mask in public and social distancing as long as he feels it’s appropriate for him.
Once he is sure he wants to enter the outside world again, you can encourage him to come out in small steps. Daily walks like you mentioned are a great option, but maybe go to a park where it’s not as crowded at first. Even sitting out on a porch with him can be a helpful first step if the walks are still too daunting.
While you seem to be very accommodating for your grandfather, it will also be helpful for you to encourage your other family members to be extra patient during this time. Adding unnecessary pressure and stress can only make the transition more difficult for someone who reasonably has concerns for their health and safety.
In the meantime, be sure to continue your video chats with your grandfather and try to connect as much as possible until you can have these family outings again. Remember that many elderly people are feeling overwhelmingly lonely during this difficult time of isolation. This situation may only heighten these negative feelings for someone who already has generalized anxiety.
While it’s important to abide by state laws and protect others through social distancing, keep in mind that those at risk are still humans who long for connection. Isolating them too much can do more harm than good. Find ways to genuinely keep in touch with your loved ones while keeping a safe distance — and once the world does open back up, be gentle and reassuring until they’re ready to join you again.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care
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