BRACEBRIDGE — The isolation associated with COVID-19 presents a new challenge for seniors and caregivers.
Beth Samuel is both.
She celebrated her 80th birthday with family and friends through social media. They embrace these connections.
“The biggest problem is a lack of socialization,” said Beth. “Particularly for a person with dementia.”
Her husband Lloyd, who celebrates his birthday nine days after his wife, has dementia. He will be 81.
Normally, the couple is active in their community; busy with family, friends and activities through the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka and the Victorian Order of Nurses.
“I think that is the single most difficult thing because we have to social distance,” she said.
When plans were cancelled mid-March due to COVID-19, she realized they'd better go into isolation.
“I have to be careful because if something happens to me, what are we going to do with Lloyd?” she said. “You can’t just leave him alone indefinitely. You have to have someone to make sure he gets his pills and things.”
The shopping is done by family. A bundle buggy is left inside the door of their condominium. She pushes the door open and steps back. Her son or granddaughter steps inside. She says her granddaughter has the process down to a science.
“We hug each other,” she said. These aren’t hugs in the traditional sense. Beth wraps her arms around herself. Her granddaughter does the same. They blow kisses.
“It’s the only way,” she said. “It’s killing us not being able to hug.”
She says she is lucky. She and Lloyd have each other, and is saddened by thoughts of others alone or unable to see their loved ones.
She is thankful the Alzheimers Society of Muskoka and the Victorian Order of Nurses are able to run their programming via technology.
Karen Quemby, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka, says people should try to stay connected and engaged as much as they can in addition to managing stress and getting physical activity daily.
“If they need help, get help to stay social (and) engaged — if they can using technology and phone — but while being COVID-19-safe and trying to keep a person with dementia engaged as well,” said Quemby.
In addition to the Minds in Motion program, the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka has moved a number of programs and support groups online with face-to-face counselling available by phone or through the secure platform of the Ontario Telemedicine Network and are referring services within the region, including a grocery delivery service through the Rotary Club of Bracebridge.
Beth and Lloyd also “chit-chat with all the neighbours in the building by phone," many of whom are also seniors living similar circumstances.
For more information on the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka visit Alzheimer.ca/Muskoka.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Muskoka has a large senior population — some of the most vulnerable persons in the face of this pandemic. But there are the hidden heroes — caregivers and their families to whom socialization is so important. We reached out to Beth Samuel to see how she and Lloyd are coping in these challenging times.