How quickly things change. A few weeks ago I was speaking at a Phonak awards dinner for its top Lyric providers about ways to enhance the provider/patient relationship, planning for two upcoming talks on patient-centered care at the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) 2020 convention, enjoying dinners out, gathering with friends, sending my children to school and practicing yoga at my local studio.
Today, everything is different. My children’s school is closed, the AAA conference is cancelled, and my family and I are hibernating at home in hopes of protecting ourselves and others from the COVID-19 virus. By the time this post is published, other restrictions may be in place. We are all feeling the stress of rapid change, the uncertainty of the unknown, and the disconnectedness that comes from sheltering in place.
Hearing loss can be socially isolating in normal times, but the newly announced social distancing rules compound the situation. How can people with hearing loss stay as active, engaged and productive as possible during this time of forced isolation?
Here are my suggestions. Please share yours in the comments. And stay safe!
1. Set up a routine. It may not be the one you are used to, but having a set time to wake, exercise, eat meals and do productive work can help you avoid slipping into lethargy. Schedule time for self care and relaxation so you keep your body and mind healthy and alert. Try meditating to relieve stress and promote a feeling of well-being.
2. Reach out to loved ones and friends. While meeting in person is not an option, commit to speak to at least one person each day. Contact that long lost friend you are always meaning to see, but never have time. You are more likely to catch them at home in the next few weeks. Talking on the phone can be difficult when you have a hearing loss, but using Facetime or Skype can help with lipreading. Captioned phones can also make conversations easier.
3. Learn something new. Use your extra time to take an on-line course. Several Ivy League colleges offer free on-line classes, many of which seem to include captioning and/or written transcripts. Take a virtual museum tour or view an online collection. Or simply read that book you’ve had on the shelf for years.
4. Keep moving. Maintain your exercise routine through online classes or YouTube videos. Free yoga classes are available at Yoga with Adriene among other places, or make up your own. I have have been leading daily yoga classes for my family to keep us active.
5. Review your emergency plans. My post How to Prepare for an Emergency When You Have Hearing Loss discusses the basics. Make sure you have plenty of batteries for your hearing devices on hand and that your chargers are easy to locate. If you need food, medicine or other necessities, try to have them delivered before heading to the store. Many grocery stores and pharmacies offer delivery on a regular basis.
6. Prepare a medical communication kit. Should you need to seek medical attention, call first. When told to head to the doctor, bring your hearing aids, batteries, chargers and any additional communication devices that you find helpful such as speech-to-text apps, paper and pencil, or Roger pens. For more suggestions on handling COVID-19 in a healthcare setting, read Chad Ruffin MD’s highly informative piece linked above.
Readers, how are you staying socially engaged during the pandemic?