There is a lot of information out there about how to manage our ageing loved ones during COVID-19. Knowing that our elderly relatives are high risk can lead us to panic, which generally makes it more difficult for us to think methodically around the issues of duty, responsibility, rights and safety.
To help you through this ethical quagmire, let’s address each issue and consider some practical ways through.
Duty Duties are negotiated and bestowed. You may see it as your duty to attend to your loved one; equally they might demand it of you. Duties do not exist in a vacuum, and nor do we have only one at a time. The COVID 19 pandemic demands that we reshuffle our deck of duties, and look at where we need to focus our time. What we know is that physical distancing shouldn’t mean abandonment. We need to come up with new ways to address the duties we hold, so that relationships don’t suffer as a result.
What if you have a relative who refuses to self-isolate? Who wants to defy the odds? Out of worry, you might feel it is your responsibility to clamp down, to insist on their compliance.
Rights When a person needs care and protection, it can be tempting to think their other rights, such as to self-determination and autonomy should go out the window. If they don’t choose safety, you might also think they have lost their marbles, and you have permission to take over. It is worth considering their position and listening to their wants and needs first before acting.
Safety At the moment, we are captivated by safety, and rightly so. However, mental health, loneliness and relationships can suffer as a result too. Elderly people also need a sense of purpose and continued practice at their skills to keep them healthy and engaged. Some may be frightened and may lead even more restrictive lives that even necessary out of the negative and confusing messages.
Here are some tips to help you support your ageing loved ones during isolation:
1# Be informed
Make sure your own decision making is based on current facts.
Enquire and really try to understand what your elderly friend or relative needs and wants at this time. Brainstorm possibilities together to make them feel included in the decision-making.
In these changed circumstances, think about what is realistically achievable. Maybe your own standards and expectations of yourself need to change.
4# Create new pathways of connection
Move family dinners, catch-ups and activities online. Kids love a reason to use technology, so this is a
5# Acts of kindness
Ask elderly people if they need a hand, whether it be someone on your street or a relative. Picking up some groceries or dropping off some (safely prepared) food is a generous act that helps to make them feel remembered.
Being elderly at the time of COVID-19 could lead them to be more marginalised and isolated than ever. Which is why it is more important than ever to look out for each other, but that doesn’t mean taking over, nor that there is only one way to do things. Keeping a sense of compassion, understanding and mutuality as you navigate these complex issues is key to maintaining strong relationships along the way.
Relationships Australia NSW has set up Time 2 Talk, a brand-new telephone hotline that provides free professional advice to help families, individuals and couples navigate the complexities of day-to-day living amid COVID-19. Simply call 1300 022 966
Watch out for our next story by Elisabeth Shaw in a week from today.
ABOUT ELISABETH SHAW, CEO OF RELATIONSHIPS AUSTRALIA NSW
Elisabeth Shaw is CEO of Relationships Australia NSW and a clinical and counselling psychologist specialising in couple and family work.
Elisabeth has kindly agreed to contribute this and more stories for The Carousel.