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COVID-19 advice from Age Friendly Benalla

By Simon Ruppert

The latest column submitted by Age Friendly Benalla offers advice for older people dealing relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Victorian and federal governments have posted advice for older people’s health and well-being during this coronavirus period.

However, not all older people have a computer at home, so here is their advice.

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Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

We recognise the feelings of anxiety and concern many people may be experiencing during this time.

Older people are at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), which may result in increased stress.

Fear and anxiety about the pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.

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Tips for staying calm and healthy:

In terms of your physical health, the most important thing you can do is maintain basic hygiene, particularly frequently washing your hands with soap or using hand sanitiser.

For your mental wellbeing, there are a number of things you can do:

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● Maintain a healthy diet, exercise and sleep regime;

● Talk to loved ones about worries and concerns;

● Engage in hobbies and enjoyable activities;

● Be prepared – ensure you have enough food, supplies and medication on hand. Ask for help collecting these items where possible;

● Avoid or reduce your use of alcohol and tobacco; and

● You may feel stressed listening to the news, so make sure you receive information through trusted and credible sources, rather than social media. Make sure one of those sources is specific to your state. This will help you feel more in control. If you can’t access the internet, get a friend or family member to read you or show you the most up-to-date information from credible sources.

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Stay positive:

While it might feel like we don’t have control of current events, it’s important to remember that we can do many things to feel empowered and enabled.

Find opportunities of sharing positive and hopeful stories with others, generate positive emotions by sharing memories, and take the opportunity to show acts of kindness.

Stay connected:

It’s important to stay connected with friends and family at this time to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

For older Australians, now might be the time to embrace technology.

Younger family members can help you get set up and guide you through the process. Give it a go.

If you are more comfortable with the phone, call friends and family for regular catch-ups. You could even write notes or letters.

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For those in self-isolation or quarantine:

There are a number of ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.

● Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus;

● Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus;

● Routines sound dull, but they’re good for our mental health. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, eat at regular times, shower, and change your clothes. This will help you to manage your days and adjust when life starts to go back to normal;

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● Try to maintain physical activity;

● Manage your stress levels, and if needed, increase your coping strategies (for example, listening to music, watching your favourite shows, meditation or exercise);

● Keep taking your medication. Phone or email your GP or pharmacist to find out how to get any new prescriptions you may need. If you’re staying at home and that’s disrupting your routine, set reminders to take your medicine when you need to; and

● For those already managing mental health issues, continue to take any prescribed medication, continue with your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms.

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Conversations with older Victorians:

Families and caregivers of older people should discuss news of coronavirus in an open and honest way.

There are some practical things you can do:

● Keep in contact by phone or using technology like video chat that allows you to see each other;

● Ensure they have enough supplies and offer to pick up on their behalf;

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● Make sure they are eating healthy foods and staying active;

● Stress the importance of social distancing and/or isolation for the sake of their own health and the health of others;

● Acknowledge their feelings of anxiety and distress when they are asked to modify their routines and activities; and

● Help family members or neighbours establish a new daily or weekly routine.

● You can find more advice and help at this link.