It is a privilege for me to help my older patients through their golden years. One thing this pandemic has taught us is that this patient group is particularly vulnerable, and extra care needs to be taken to keep them safe.
Aged care facilities have been quarantined, borders restricted, visitors banned, staff smiles disguised under their armour of PPE. It isn’t surprising that there is a vast sense of loneliness among our elders – wherever they may be.
All of these factors have contributed to those in their golden years missing out on crucial time together with their families and friends, and as part of the wider community. So what can we do?
1. Get the jab! This is the best thing we can do to help open up society safely and live alongside those at greater risk of harm. Respect your elders and do it for them, if not for yourself.
2. Reconnect. It only takes a little to make a big difference. Pick up the phone, talk them through Zoom, write a letter, make future plans to look forward to. It may only take 5 minutes for you, but it will make someone else’s day.
3. Refer. Relationships Australia has developed a wonderful new program called the Reconnect Wellbeing Support Program to reduce social isolation and loneliness, and establish reconnection with our elders. 1300 364 277 is the number to refer to those you are concerned about. There are local services available as well for each specific area.
4. Organise a check-up. It is a real shame that modern general practice has turned away from the routine home visit schtick. To be honest, I used to resent these as a registrar (in all fairness I was 8 months pregnant and could barely get in and out of a chair, let alone a car), but now I love doing home visits, especially to nursing homes. It is a privilege to be able to do these. For my patients, I get an insight into their day to day situation, their overall well-being, and their supports. It is a crucial tool for the modern GP, in my humble opinion.
There are many, many more ways to support this important population group, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about what else we can do to help connect.