The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things about the healthcare industry, including the way patients, providers, and visiting loved ones stay safe. Luckily, since January 2021, hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have decreased by 67%1.
But, for people with cancer who often deal with a weakened immune system and longer-term hospital stays, the threat of COVID is still very real, very scary, and very dangerous. Whether you’re in a long-term care facility or you’re able to be at home with the help of a caretaker, it’s crucial to be vigilant when it comes to keeping yourself safe and social distancing.
Unfortunately, that can lead to issues with your emotional and mental health. Isolation and loneliness have become real problems throughout this pandemic, and isolation has been shown to negatively affect the immune system and can cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety. A lack of interaction can even negatively impact how you respond to treatment in the hospital2.
So, what can you do to socialize with your loved ones while keeping yourself safe and socially distanced?
Take Advantage of Technology
While the pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, there is one silver lining to the fact that it came in 2020 — we have highly advanced technology to help us through it. Thanks to that technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected virtually to the people you love.
Everything from scheduling daily FaceTime calls with your family members to having larger Zoom gatherings once in a while can help you feel more connected with everyone you care about. While video chatting isn’t the same as being with someone in person, it’s the next best thing. Thankfully, it still allows you to see expressions and feel a sense of “belonging” when you’re talking.
Technology also gives you the power to send text messages, make phone calls, and even find unique ways to connect with loved ones. You can play games together online, chat in messaging apps, or even watch a movie together, thanks to platforms like Teleparty.
By getting creative with your technology use, you can make the most of what you’re given and find unique ways to stay in touch, even when you can’t be together.
Be a Part of Big Events
Life goes on, whether you’re dealing with an extended hospital stay or you’re in a care facility that is unsafe to leave right now. Unfortunately, that might mean you have to miss out on some major events with your family and friends.
Again, technology comes to the rescue to make sure you can still be a part of big family moments. For example, if you want to go to your young relative’s birthday party but you can’t leave the hospital, consider talking with their parents about a virtual party. If your child is the one fighting cancer and has to stay in the hospital, a virtual party is an even better idea. It allows them to be celebrated while staying safe. Just make sure to:
- Plan ahead
- Choose a digital platform
- Install the right software
- Pick a theme
- Send out invitations
- Create a fun schedule
Other life moments shouldn’t be missed just because you’re in the hospital. Many couples have held “virtual weddings” or vow renewals over the last year, allowing family members and friends to “tune in” to their special event. Encourage your loved ones to utilize technology as much as possible, especially when they have an event planned. It will allow you to remain involved and be a part of everything while staying safe and healthy.
If you’re feeling lost and alone because you can’t be with your loved ones in person, it’s important to know that you’re certainly not alone in how you feel. But, letting stress and anxiety overwhelm you due to loneliness will only make matters worse. Additionally, it can impact your treatment and change your outlook in a negative way.
One of the best things you can try to do for yourself in times of isolation is to reduce your stress levels. Find things that relax you or utilize practices that are known to reduce anxiety, like:
- Breathing exercises
- Getting enough sleep
- Practicing mindfulness
Once you’re better able to manage your stress, don’t be afraid to seek out support in different or unique ways. Talk to your doctors and nurses that you see on a daily basis. Connect with other patients you might regularly see. If you’re in a care facility, take part in different activities that are offered.
You can also take advantage of technology once more by considering teletherapy3. If you’re truly struggling with loneliness and isolation, talking with a mental health professional can help. Telehealth has become increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, and online therapy is no exception. You can connect with a therapist from anywhere in the country without having to leave your bed. Or, consider joining an online support group for cancer patients. It’s a convenient and effective way to manage your mental health and combat feelings of loneliness while understanding that this pandemic won’t last forever. Already, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take comfort in knowing that it may not be long before you can see your loved ones face-to-face again. Until then, keep these ideas in mind to stay connected and to fight back against isolation.
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.