Isolation and confusion: The toxicity of this combination can elicit fear and anxiety in anyone, but has proven to be particularly concerning for seniors during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Due to the global impact of this extremely contagious virus and the risk factors it poses for seniors, social distancing has become mandated in many public centers and senior living communities. Unfortunately, this social isolation—while beneficial from a physical standpoint—has also resulted in many psychological risk factors for older adults. These hidden complications should be considered a serious public health concern among older adults, as it can heighten their risk of cardiovascular, autoimmune, neurocognitive, and psychological problems.
The overwhelming loneliness and bereavement that seniors are experiencing during COVID-19 is not something to put on the back burner. Taking the time to understand the harm of extreme social isolation in older adults is a great place to start when looking for solutions and alternatives to the stifling remoteness.
The Hidden Truth: Risk Factors of Social Isolation
COVID-19 has not only inflicted physical complications on seniors but has also resulted in negative mental health effects due to mandated isolation and self-imposed quarantine. And while these social-distancing restraints have proven to keep at-risk individuals safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, the psychological risk factors for seniors isolating during the crisis need to be contended with as well. Some of the most concerning psychological risk factors of isolation for seniors include:
- Panic attacks
- Stress-induced illness
- Suicidal ideation
- Substance abuse
These risk factors should be seriously considered for seniors as the symptomatic exacerbations of COVID-19. Why? Stress and anxiety, if experienced consistently and at high levels, have been proven to weaken the immune system—which is one thing that no one needs to be at risk of during a pandemic.
The question then becomes: How can we protect seniors from COVID-19 without provoking the psychological risk factors linked to isolation? Fortunately, there are ways that older adults and staff at senior living communities can counter these negative mental health issues as social isolation continues during COVID-19. Here’s what we suggest:
- Add structure to the day. A busy mind is a happy mind! Planning days around established routines encourages an active mind and body, both of which have been proven to keep psychological risks at bay.
- Incorporate physical activities into routines. Low-impact exercises, like walking and yoga, help the body release endorphins for a happy state of mind.
- Offer/establish communication platforms to connect seniors with family. The 21st century has advanced technologies in place for long-distance communication. These platforms—such as video conferences and instant messaging—can help seniors fill that gap of loneliness during social isolation. All you have to do is provide them with the tools, set up easy access, and patiently teach them the how-tos.
- Encourage everyday preventive actions. Social distancing guidelines are already starting to ease around the nation, offering an alternative to complete social isolation. As these boundaries weaken, however, it’s important that at-risk individuals continue to take caution when venturing out by wearing face coverings, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, and washing hands regularly.
DispatchHealth is here to provide in-home care for seniors in isolation, cutting down on the anxiety linked to seeking prompt medical care amid COVID-19. We’re responding to COVID-19 by implementing a wide range of safety protocols that have been designed to keep both our medical teams and patients safe. Requesting care via our website, app, or phone call is easy! Once contacted, we’ll be at your doorstep within a couple of hours.
To learn more about how DispatchHealth is responding to coronavirus (COVID-19), feel free to reach out to us with your questions.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
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