How I got my 74-yr-old mother to practice social distancing in the wake of covid-19

The elderly are at the highest risk of coronavirus. And yet, they are also the most resistant to social distancing. Here’s how you can get them on board.
being away from parents duringcovid-19
Getting your elderly parents to practice social distancing can be tough. But you can always equip them with technology and facts to make the process smoother. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Meghna Kriplani Updated: 20 Mar 2020, 20:06 pm IST
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My mother doesn’t panic easy—especially because of something which is making the news. This used to be a perk for me growing up because she never let the dwindling state of affairs in our country affect my comings and goings.

But this also means that right now, she doesn’t give two hoots about this coronavirus-shoronavirus that everybody is talking about. Needless to I am panicking enough for the both us.

The threat of coronavirus is very daunting for us millennials—given how we’re bombarded with information about this pandemic every second of every day. But, there is another aspect of this affliction that has blanched us with terror. The fact that our parents are at the highest risk.

The elderly are the biggest casualty in the coronavirus crisis
A CDC report states that eight of 10 people who have been hospitalised due to coronavirus in the United States of America are above the age of 65.

Data from Italy—which as of today has the highest covid-19 death toll in the world, beating China—also suggests the same.

According to the Associated Press, about 87% of coronavirus casualty in the European country comprises of people above the age of 70.

Yet this stat is not a cause of concern for my mother. A proponent of the school of thought which says “jo aaya hai, woh jayega” aka death is inevitable—she had been going about her day, mingling with the neighbours, and shopping in the crowded markets without any qualms.

In fact, most parents in fact are resistant to the idea of social distancing
“This is the age where the elderly population feels a sense of isolation. Their kids might have moved away from home and they are left behind to interact with the few people around them,” explains Dr Bhavna Barmi, a Delhi-based psychologist, associated with Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.

“There might be a sense of hopelessness if they are already ill, with the mindset that it’s only a matter of time. At times like this, social interactions are what keeps their mind and body functioning, so their perspective on distancing might be relatively different,” she adds.

Yet, social distancing is the need of the hour—and this is how you can make it happen for your parents
It took me weeks to get her to understand the potential health risk lurking outside—and how she could be a carrier of the disease for her family along with being a victim of covid-19 herself.

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coronavirus elderly parents

Was I successful in my endeavour? Yes! Was I exhausted by the end of it? Absolutely. Wondering how I did it? Well, I followed these six steps to get my mother to take coronavirus seriously and practice social distancing:

1. I sat her down gently and explained to her why she was at a high risk—higher than her kids. She didn’t take it kindly at first—after all, being told that you’re old and so you’ve got to be careful isn’t very confidence inducing. After a few minutes of “I can take care of myself” and “don’t try to mother me!”—she calmed down. At which point…

2. I offered her information from HER trusted sources. I switched on the TV and tuned into the news channel she watches and urged her to hear for herself what the situation was like. The fact that everyone else in my extended family was scared about coronavirus massively help my case.

Also read: These 5 pieces of great coronavirus news are the rays of hope we need during this pandemic

3. Next, I asked her to read up on coronavirus herself. I taught my mom how to Google and so for the next few days, she searched the depths of the internet and read everything there was to covid-19. This education as important because it helped her gauge the severity of the situation herself and as a result, she got more cautious.

4. That said, I ensured she didn’t believe everything she read on the internet. Now this was a real challenge. Because once she started paying attention to WhatsApp forwards which claimed coronavirus is a man-made virus meant to eradicate the elderly population in China, she started freaking out.

While it was important for her to educate herself—it was also important for me to separate fact from fiction for her. So, I regularly bust myths about coronavirus for her and ensure she gets her facts right.

5. I was gentle with her even she was acting like a petulant child. I now know what it is like to mother a mother—and trust me it requires a lot of patience. But yelling at her wasn’t the key to solving this conundrum.

From being the one taking care of you to being taken care of by you—the transition can be tough to swallow for our parents, especially for those who are fiercely independent, like my mom. I had to repeat myself tens of times, but each time I kept my cool and put my point across as gently as possible.

6. I ensured she had the tools to stay connected with her friends and siblings. My mother might be begrudgingly practicing social distancing right now, but she knows how to make a video call and use Facebook. In short, with a click of a button she can reach out to whoever she likes without stepping out of the house.

These are trying times. And ensuring that our parents are safe from this pandemic—which can have serious consequences for them—is the least we can do for our peace of mind and their healthy life.

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About the Author

Waging a war against diets one cookie at a time, Meghna is a content creator and editor focusing on women's issues, wellness, and lifestyle. ...Read More

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