How to Talk to Grandparents About COVID-19

So, you’ve already chatted with the kids. What about grandparents? As COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S., Memorial Hermann is helping to address the questions and concerns on many parents’ minds.

We sat down with Dr. Bentley Bobrow, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, to discuss best practices for communicating effectively with the elderly during this stressful time.

Explain the situation

While each relationship, conversation and situation differ by person, it’s key to emphasize COVID-19 as a worldwide event that has affected (and will keep affecting) thousands of people. Individuals ages 60 and up are the most at risk, so taking extreme precautions such as self-quarantining and social distancing is completely necessary right now. We’re not having these conversations to put them into panic mode, but because we have their best interest at heart.

Help filter and navigate the news

With the volume of news content and influx of misinformation floating around the Internet, it can be frustrating to identify fact vs. fiction. One thing you can do is serve as a media filter and point them in the direction of credible sources and/or articles. If they don’t like reading or listening, consider painting scenarios or telling stories to help them better understand the concept.

Be persistent

If they’re refusing to believe or accept the situation, keep trying and talking. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t listen the first or second time around, as this situation is hard for some to grasp. It may require repetition, but the more you can break through to them, the better off they’ll be.

Approach with patience, care and compassion

Difficult times lead to difficult conversations, which is why patience will remain crucial. While you have your chats, remember you’re coming from a place of care. Ensure your tone of voice isn’t threatening, as people (no matter the age) are likely to respond more positively to compassion over irritation.

Keep in touch often

Above all, make sure your grandparents or elderly friends avoid emotional isolation, as it can put them in danger. While they should have limited physical contact with people, we encourage frequently connection with them over the phone and/or video chat. It’s important to keep a pulse on their overall wellbeing, making sure they have enough groceries, supplies and medicine. Staying in touch with them also gives you the ability to monitor the potential for symptoms and make care decisions as needed. Remember that the most important thing for everyone right now is to remain close—from afar.

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Ali Vise