The social distancing measures enforced to manage the risks of COVID-19 mean that many of us are temporarily having less contact with others. We know that social distancing is essential for the health of our population however it comes with an increased risk of social isolation, a concern particularly relevant to our vulnerable members of society.
You may ask, why are we concerned about social isolation? Social isolation is heavily linked with feelings of loneliness, depression and can lead to a decline in overall physical and mental well-being. Older adults, who are in the COVID-19 risk category, have been advised to stay at home as much as possible to stay safe,which means they are particularly at risk of social isolation throughout this period of uncertainty.
As a care manager you can play a key role in mitigating the risks of social isolation. This article gives you some tips on how you can support vulnerable older adults
If a care recipient is at risk of social isolation, then it is essential that their care plan is up to date and visible to both the client, care workers and any loved ones involved in their care. Our article on Care planning for those at risk of COVID-19 will provide you with some tips on what to consider in reviewing a client’s plan to ensure they remain safe and well.
Pinpoint those older adults who are at most risk of social isolation. As a homecare provider you will be working with many older adults who live alone and have minimal social interaction. Being unable to leave the house will leave these adults even more restricted and without companionship. For those who live alone, and have complex health and social care needs, it is particularly important to try and alleviate the risks of isolation.
Regular well-being calls to socially isolated clients provide human contact, social interaction and a chance to ensure they’re safe. We understand that you may not have the capacity or resources to manage this in house if so you could signpost your clients to services that offer this. For a friendly chat, Silver Line charity is available day or night for older adults to contact. Here at Birdie we are trialing something similar with some of our partner agencies by providing companionship calls to vulnerable older adults. Get in contact with us if you’d like to participate.
Finding ways to be social in a world of social distancing is possible. Advancements in technology enable us to link in with friends, families and other communities at the click of a button. As an agency, you can provide support to older adults who are less tech-savvy. For instance if you know a client has technology available at home then carers could teach them how to use this or educate them on using certain apps. You could also ask all your carers to report to you which clients have tech in their homes so this can be monitored or ask family members if they would be willing to provide these for their loved ones.
It is really important that socially isolated older adults have access to vital supplies to ensure they are kept safe and well throughout the pandemic. Perhaps you could encourage care workers to log and record how long the client can last with current supplies of medications or food and document who is responsible for restocking (e.g the agency, the client, or someone else). The care worker may be able to support their client by assisting with an online food shop or physically collecting food or medications on their behalf.
For some inspiration on task ideas that can be added to care plans to help combat the risks of isolation, please click here.