With Mother's Day fast approaching but the government strongly advising us to curb non-essential social interactions due to the spread of coronavirus, it's an even more challenging time when all we want is to be close to our loved ones.
On Monday evening (16 March), Prime minister Boris Johnson told the public that they should avoid "non-essential travel" and gatherings with friends and family, as well as "unnecessary" visits to relatives in care homes.
The government has also advised that by the weekend, which coincides with Mothering Sunday, groups that are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 – such as those over the age of 70 – will be asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.
So how can we can look after our elderly relatives without necessarily seeing them in person? Particularly when their mental health can be impacted from loneliness and a growing sense of isolation.
On Mothering Sunday, even if you feel healthy and your mother isn't too far away, it's still strongly advised to avoid all social contact so the best alternative would be a FaceTime call or Skype chat. If you were planning a restaurant trip, you could do cook-alongs on a group video call with other members of your family so you feel connected.
Send a card and gifts to ensure your mother knows you are thinking about her. The Royal Mail has assured the public that it is safe to send gifts and cards home on Mother's Day.
Royal Mail states on their website that in order to protect customers and their employees, they will not be handing over hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures. Instead, they will log the name of the person accepting the item which will apply to all deliveries that require a signature.
Postmen and women will now leave large parcels by the door and wait at a 'safe distance' for people to pick them up.
If the items are not collected, postmen and women will deliver a 'Something for You' card, advising customers on how to get their package.
Shane O'Riordain, managing director of marketing at Royal Mail, added in a statement: "We are delivering Mother's Day gifts as well as important documents like hospital appointments. We will continue to play our part."
Now is the time to send care packages - including books - to keep your loved ones entertained while we adhere to social distancing. Social distancing means trying to avoid contact with other people and spending less time in public places.
Anyone living with someone who has a cough or a temperature is to stay at home for 14 days. It's believed that the government will announce measures for people in at-risk groups - including pregnant women, people aged over 70 and those with underlying health conditions - to stay at home for 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, Charity Director at Age UK Caroline Abrahams has shared some practical tips with us on how we can help our older relatives keep stocked up on what they need as they prepare to self isolate.
"First and foremost, it will be important to make sure older and more vulnerable people have the things they need to stay safe and well at home," Caroline said. "Picking up some shopping, prescriptions or running some errands could be a major help."
Age UK also advises "encouraging older people to stay physically active at home" and making sure they have everything they need to continue with their hobbies.
Ways in which you can encourage your relatives to stay active is by cleaning, dancing, or doing seated exercises – as advised by the NHS. Getting some fresh air and sunlight as the weather begins to improve can also be beneficial.
Age UK's Caroline also suggests coming up with creative ways for people to stay in contact with others to boost morale.
"Other than the usual routes of communication, one other example could be a neighbourly Book Club dial-in. It might turn out that some of these options turn out to be a good way to nip loneliness in the bud in the long-term as well."
She added: "Now is not the time to back off our older population, who need our love and support more than ever. Do provide reassurance and now's a good time to make a plan together as a family."
If you are concerned for your family's mental health, Mind have a supportive online community called Eelfriends where people can chat to one another and share their experiences to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Elefriends is moderated daily by the Ele handler team from 10am to midnight.
For those who are unable to visit relatives in care homes, Carers UK says we should be thinking of other ways of spending time together, such as setting up a family group chat or playing games online.
"If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular simple phone call to offer social contact and support," Carers UK states.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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