As Seniors Face Holidays In Isolation, Experts Warn Anxiety, Depression Can Be Deadly
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- This is a tough week for many senior citizens who are isolating to stay safe and unable to be with family or friends for Thanksgiving.
But there are ways to help seniors in nursing homes and living alone feel remembered.
Residents at Sunrise of North Lynbrook can't go anywhere for Thanksgiving, so the celebration came to them. Staff delivered holiday happiness safely to residents' suites.
"Each day, we try to bring a new idea of how we can, one-on-one, bring that warmth and celebration to their homes because this is their home," said Larissa Kostal, executive director of Sunrise of North Lynbrook.
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Many assisted living residents have had to forego visitors for months as rules change and vary by state, county and facility.
At Sunrise, only essential visits for hospice are allowed for the holidays. Family members share moments virtually.
For seniors living on their own, too, like 89-year-old Esther Hairston, the holiday is made less lonely with a special gift from the Family and Children's Association -- robotic pets.
"He purrs and turns his head, and for an elderly person, that is an excellent thing," Hairston told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.
The agency has donated robopets and meals. It's all-hands-on-deck, calling seniors who live alone.
"We urge them not to isolate, to make those phone calls, to stay in touch. Sometimes it can be very easy for them to withdraw," said Lisa Stern, with senior/adult services at the Family and Children's Association.
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Experts warn anxiety and depression from isolation can be as deadly as the virus itself. Technology may seem daunting, but it can be a big help.
"Explaining to them that FaceTime isn't actually all that complicated ... can go a long way to breaking that isolation," said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Family and Children's Association.
Reynolds says check in daily with seniors and ask probing questions, such as "did you eat today," "how are you feeling today" and "were you able to jump into the shower?"
He also says to maintain traditions even from afar. Show pictures of past Thanksgivings and drop off family recipes.
WATCH: Jeffrey Reynolds On Helping Seniors Feel Less Alone During The Holidays --
"We need one another," Hairston said.
So they know they are not forgotten.
For seniors with no close family nearby, experts suggest leaving a dish on a doorstep, sending flowers or just knocking on a door to say hello -- while wearing a face mask and from a safe distance.
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