During this extraordinary time of isolation and stress, mental health has become an important topic of discussion. Seniors are under stricter visitation guidelines depending on what state you are living in, and whether they are at home or in senior living facilities. Regardless of your living situation, maintaining good mental health is vital to your overall health.

Good mental health helps us all cope with stress, disappointment and grief. It doesn’t mean that we don’t experience these feelings. But it does mean that we can cope and recover from it.

Lack of social engagement can lead to increased problems with thinking and memory. It can also cause a worsening of medical problems.

Social distancing is the idea that when people stay apart –  they are less likely to be exposed to the virus. As we know, COVID-19 is spread through respiration. Many senior living communities had initiated across the country a mandatory 14 day quarantine for those leaving the facility. This would help minimize their chances of passing the virus to someone else if they were confined to their room. This has been since lessoned in some of the facilities locally.

Now that we have a better understanding of the importance of staying mentally and socially stimulated, let’s look at some activities to make this possible.

Fun Ways with Technology

Facebook: Facebook is a great way to stay connected with friend and family. You can share ideas, repost articles of interest, post photos and more.

Facetime: Facetime is a video and audio service. You will need an IPhone, laptop or IPad to use it. Like Facebook, it is free. Seeing your children, grandchildren can be reassuring and fun.

Email: Yes, good old email is still a great way to communicate with people. If you really want to impress your family... learn to text.

Stimulating Mental Activities

Games: Word and card games can help keep your mind active. Consider jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Don’t forget the online games like solitaire, and hundreds others.

Using the internet to travel: It is now possible to travel right from your chair. Visit museums, other countries and cities. Try Google Earth. You can fly to any part of the world that appeals to you. Before you know it, hours have passed. You can do this from your smartphone, computer or IPad.

Reading: Reading can stimulate the imagination and take you places you’ve never been to. Use a kindle or the old fashioned library to access this.

Humor: Although humor may not be mentally stimulating, it is a mentally healthy one. Watch movies or funny TV shows. This can be done from the comfort and safety of your home or room in a senior living facility.

Writing: Whether it may be journaling or a story you have been burning to tell, this might be the time to do so. Also, maybe this is a good time to write your personal history for your children and grandchildren.

Caregivers are in a unique position to help facilitate and help carry out the suggestions I have outlined. They can help teach seniors how to use laptops, iPad, computers or smartphones to carry out these social media apps. Caregivers can fill that vital gap of socialization. Conversation helps people feel connected and appreciated. It stimulates the brain in a positive and meaningful way.

Being alone throughout the COVID-19 does not mean your mental health should suffer. A caregiver can be an enormous help during these difficult times. All of the staff at BLC- Wahpeton have been great assets to our residents by performing the above activities with their residents.

Pam Meyer is the Wellness Director at BLC-Wahpeton.

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