As many caregivers can attest, our older loved ones sometimes react to tragedies and disasters differently than the rest of us. The news has been full of tragedies for the past several weeks: Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, SW Florida, the Texas Gulf Coast …
Constant media report of events halfway across the country can be exhausting for any of us, which is why sometimes mental health experts will advise us to unplug for a while and focus on our families and other interests. Your local news and social media feed likely are filled with expert advice on how to talk to children about what happened in Las Vegas or the storms in the Atlantic. But what about seniors?
While overall, older people tend to be more resilient than their younger counterparts, they also have their own set of challenges.
A big one is isolation.
Whenever there is an unsettling or jarring news event, it’s human nature to talk about it and our reactions to it with those we encounter every day; in extreme cases we might even discuss it with complete strangers. Older people living alone tend to have fewer social interactions, depriving them of opportunities to gain comfort from discussing the situation rationally. Psychologists call these activities adaptive coping tools, and we all need them to get through tough or confusing times.
Older family members also may have concerns for loved ones whose whereabouts and condition they can’t easily verify.
Was my grandson going there on vacation this week or next week?
Is that near my daughter’s condo?
Facebook has a check-in feature so friends and family can confirm their status in times of crisis, but not everybody uses that website or has access to the Internet service it requires. So, make sure your family’s check-in procedure is up-to-date, too, even if it’s just a reassuring phone call. Create a simple process or look into remote monitoring systems like Direct Link®. In some situations, they can make a difference in more ways than just monitoring physical safety.
Disasters and atrocities are unsettling for all of us to some degree, even when they happen far away. Those immediately involved have urgent and obvious needs. But for those affected by the round-the-clock news coverage, we serve them best by keeping the lines of communication open. This way, we can make sure that when they’re needed, the coping tools on which we all depend remain within easy reach.