How You Can Help Your Older Parents During the Crisis

Whether you live locally or far away, there are ways to support your parents from a distance.

Shutterstock / Diego Cervo
Shutterstock / Diego Cervo

For many people with older parents, one of the most challenging repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic is not being able to see or care for them in person. In a Thrive Global survey of 5,000 Americans about coronavirus pain points, over 90% of respondents said that the outbreak has them concerned about the health of their elderly parents or family members. That concern is well-placed: The CDC reports that along with those who are immuno-compromised or have previous health conditions, older people are among the most vulnerable to the virus. That’s why it’s all the more important to practice social distancing with (and on behalf of) these groups. 

“The best strategy for older adults with caregiving needs is to shelter in place, the same approach that is being used for the entire population in some of the hardest hit communities in the country,” writes Dr. Muriel Gillick, a Professor at Harvard Medical School, in the New York Times. But if you’re struggling with not being able to hold your parents’ hands or give them a hug during these uncertain times, know that there are ways to support and care for them while maintaining a safe distance. For example, you can help your parents avoid crowds by picking up extra food and supplies next time you venture out to the grocery store. If you live far away and aren’t able to drop off groceries at your parents’ place, you can order food and/or supplies online and have it delivered to their doorstep – something they may be hesitant or unsure of how to do themselves. Keep in mind that, depending on where they live, delivery slots may be hard to lock down, so you’ll have to be persistent. Try looking for a slot as far in advance as you can, and look at options from multiple stores near their home. 

You can also support your parents by asking about their medication supply. Since none of us know exactly how long we’ll be socially distancing for, they should have access to at least several weeks of medication. If they don’t have that much in stock at home, you can offer to help by refilling their prescription at the pharmacy (you can do this by phone!) and picking up the medication if you’re local. And if you’re not, you can look into prescription delivery or mail-order services as a means to get the correct meds into your parents’ hands. 

For more detailed ideas on how to help your parents out, look to these Microsteps: 

Call your parents to ask how they’re preparing. Check in to ask how they’re doing and gauge their awareness, preparation, and how they’re feeling.

Pick up extra food and supplies for your parents next time you go grocery shopping. If they’re at higher risk, help them avoid crowds by adding them to your regular grocery run. If this isn’t possible, advise them to stock up on non-perishable food on their next grocery trip. 

Check in with your parents about their medication supply. They should have access to several weeks of medication in case they need to stay home for long periods. Offer to help order prescription refills and pick up medications if you’re local.

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