By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Keeping the body, mind, and soul engaged is an important step for the elderly to reduce their vulnerability to the coronavirus, said clergy and parish health nurses in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Senior citizens still living at home should heed the advice of staying home as much as possible, according to Stephanie Gaudin, parish nurse at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs. Before they go to the grocery store or run other errands, senior citizens should make lists so they can complete their tasks as quickly as possible.

But staying at home doesn’t mean one has to stay motionless, said Gaudin, who advised seniors to “move.”

“I encourage them to go outside. If they stay inside all the time they are likely to get depressed. Go outside and get some fresh air,” said Gaudin.

She said any form of movement, even if it is getting up and walking around the house, is helpful.

“Get the blood pumping,” said Gaudin.

ICC pastor Father Frank Uter also suggested the elderly could do the things they have been saving for “a rainy day” that could possibly be done from home.

“I find myself busy at a relaxed pace, but at the same time taking care of things I never had time to take care of,” said Father Uter.

Keeping their mind going also helps seniors to take their focus off their worries.

“If they like to do puzzles, encourage them to do puzzles, anything that keeps the mind active,” said Gaudin.

She added it’s important for seniors to keep their routines and enjoy their hobbies as much as possible. Seniors who like to cook should be encouraged to prepare healthy meals so they will get the nutrition they need.

One of the best ways to look after the health and welfare of the elderly is to call and see if they need anything or simply talk with them.

“One thing our parish is doing for the elderly and all is calling parishioners.  It started out as a project for those 70 years or older but was so appreciated we have spread it to all,” said Father Uter. “Our staff has divided up a printed copy of all the households and has been calling each household to see how they are doing.

“Some really good things have come from this. Perhaps some of the elderly may have someone they haven’t been in touch with for a while.”

Technology can be a friend in keeping in touch with and watching after seniors at this time, said Gaudin.

For those with loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, maintaining contact with the facilities and arranging to visit with loved ones through social media is helpful.

Parents can encourage their children to make cards for nursing home residents to let them know someone is thinking of them.

The practices developed to assure the safety and quality of life for seniors during the pandemic can be built upon once it is over, Gaudin emphasized.

“This is a good time to say, ‘I need to take better care of myself,’ ” she said.