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How this home is keeping seniors active so that prolonged isolation doesn't affect them negatively

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 19:00:05-04

CINCINNATI — Eighty-eight-year-old Marita Judge finds joy in the little things in life. These days, that happens to be through a Facebook video of Tanzi, the African pygmy falcon at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Watching Cincinnati Zoo videos is one of many ways that Home Care Assistance Cincinnati is encouraging senior citizens to stay distracted and entertained while indoors during COVID-19.

The organization provides one-on-one support for older adults in the Greater Cincinnati community to help them live independently at home, especially now, as that group is the more at-risk population.

“It does take a little bit of time to get used to this change and seeing people wear this equipment: the face masks and the gloves and doing the universal precautions,” said Director of Cognitive Care Liz Sudberry. “With time and reassurance, they are adapting to it and we’re keeping their mind off the negatives and the scary parts by doing things that are meaningful and relevant.”

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, prolonged isolation has similar effects to those of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So they’re hoping that these activities will keep loneliness and COVID-19 at bay.

“It’s so hard to understand how serious this is,” she added. “What we don’t want is people sitting there listening to the bad news all day. We want them to see the glass half full, we want them to see the good things that are happening. It’s really easy to get more anxious and to be more scared.”

Some of those meaningful and relevant activities include completing memory games, word scrambles and puzzles in their 75-page booklet that is easily printable.

Stimulating brain health through word scrambles and cognitive engagement
Stimulating brain health through word scrambles and cognitive engagement

“To help keep their mind stimulated and maximize their brain health through things like language and visual spacial attention,” Sudberry said.

In addition, anyone can get access to the organization’s Life Enrichment Guide, which provides access to interactive online broadcast videos, interactive labs, live streams or pre-recorded videos like the one Judge spent some time watching.

“You can see symphonies, the ballet, virtual tours of the White House, the Royal Theatre, the Van Gogh Collection… it just depends what our client needs,” she added.

But if their clients want more than just videos and activities, how about meeting Baby Cakes, a miniature horse, from afar? Staff went door to door, for some pet therapy, introducing the adults to Baby Cakes, and giving them a reason to smile.

“They were simulating hugs and asking us to hug the horse for them and rocking their arms back and forth,” Sudberry said with a smile on her face.

Seniors get introduced to miniature horse, Baby Cakes
Seniors get introduced to miniature horse, Baby Cakes

Other than entertaining its clients, the group is also making sure the caregivers who help them on a daily basis are healthy as well.

Sudberry said they are offering more work hours to those caregivers who choose to restrict to one job site instead of going to multiple sites and increasing the chances of contagion. She added that none of the seniors they care for, or any of their care partners, have experienced coronavirus first-hand.

“We have had some people have family members tested but we’ve been doing a lot to restrict contact exposure by creating a job site tracker because many of our employees work at multiple sites or work for different agencies… so we have been tracking sites,” she said.

In addition, the group has delivered approximately 38 kits with toilet paper, cans of soup, gloves, wipes and masks to the older adults and their caregivers.

“I can’t even begin to tell you the heroes out there,” Sudberry said. “We’ve had tragedies not necessarily related to COVID-19, but we’ve had tragedies just coincidentally during this time. The staff, the care partners, the staffing managers, the client care managers have been absolutely amazing.”