As we all grapple with the uncertainty and no doubt for older Australians, the fear that surrounds the COVID-19 pandemic those of us who aren’t stockpiling toilet paper are wondering how we can help. This is especially so for those of us working in and around the aged care sector. The Australian Government has not yet recommended that our elders self-isolate but many families are taking that difficult decision. So how do we help. What can we give?
There is unquestionably something that you can give, facilitate and encourage for older people in our midst. And it is unquestionably more valuable than the holy grail could ever hope to be.
That something is connectedness, relevance, community … you get the picture I’m sure.
The truer these things are then the more likely that loneliness will be successfully relegated. Relegated from being a hovering cloud or an ever-imminent reality down to a very remote possibility.
Loneliness is a scourge for those of all ages but very much so for our elders. Its consequences or risks are far reaching and span adverse effects to sleep, nutrition, infection, general physical and mental health, recovery from ill health and the list goes on.
So, for the elderly who are part of your extended circle of family and friends there isn’t a need for grand gestures or expensive gifts.
Rather there’s a need to give the gift of time, to be truly present to them, to arrange for regular and varied presence and continued connection. Create in them the comfortable demeanour that comes with the reality of being connected to others and meaning something.
It will do them good … it will do you good … it will do those who care for them good … it will do all of us good.
The more widely and truly connected those elders are and the more relevant they are and feel then the less likely that they will become prey to those who abuse.
Because abuse, like many evils, flourishes when detection and punishment is more easily avoided. Without connection and relevance, the abuse is less likely to be detected or be brought to the attention of others. And we all shudder at the thought that there might be circumstances where an elder might feel that reporting the acts of an abuser will lead to the loss of the only connection or relevance that exists … that to the abuser.
And aside from abuse of a conscious sort there is the insidious subconscious abuse that can creep into how well elders who are less connected or irrelevant are cared for or the level of respect that might be afforded to them.
It was Mother Theresa who is quoted to have said – “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”.
In the face of this pandemic let’s all play our ‘bit part’ in our circles to relieve that poverty and help starve away the opportunity, temptation or inclination to abuse.
Mother Theresa is also quoted as saying and many others have said similar – “I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Now more than ever all communities need to draw on this inspiration.