The Importance of Mental Health of the Elderly in Times of Covid19

The Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely stressful on the elderly. Though everyone has been affected in one way or another, the elderly population have been dealing with more cases, as well as more fear.

During such times, it’s important to keep the elderly in mind, supporting them as they need while they isolate and practice social distancing.  For the elderly in home health care, it can be even more challenging – especially if they are used to getting out for community events to socialize.

In addition to support, it’s important to keep tabs on the elderly’s mental health during such times. Factors like lack of socialization and chronic fear can have a negative impact on mental health. Those who are in home care workers should be on the lookout for any signs or symptoms of mental health conditions and make the appropriate referrals as necessary.

The following are some factors that may impact the elderly’s mental health:

High Stress Levels

Covid-19 is a virus that has mostly impacted the elderly population.  Of course, this can increase anxiety and fear levels tremendously in those that are older or have an underlying medical condition.

As such, it’s helpful to monitor elderly clients for chronic stress. There are various stress reduction techniques that they can learn and practice each day to help minimize stress. As an in-home health care worker, you can inquire about your client’s stress levels by engaging them in conversation about how they’re feeling about Covid-19 and other areas of their lives. Let them be open with you about their fears and concerns.

If you feel that their stress levels are impacting their mental health, you can direct them to a mental health professional that could help them. There are plenty counselors are offering counseling via video chats during these uncertain times.

Lack Of Socialization

Due to the socialization restrictions in place, many elderly people are feeling isolated, disconnected, and lonely.  The longer this continues, the more susceptible they become to experience mental health distress.

With their typical sources of community suspended, like church, clubs, senior centers, etc., their routines can be disrupted. This can create feelings of anxiety, depression, fear, and more.

As an in-home health care worker, talk to each client about how they’re feeling about being socially isolated. Let them share their feelings openly and honestly.

It might help them to connect with others via online video calls, such as with Zoom or Skype. Do some research as to what agencies are providing video calls through the week and let your client know.  Check mental health agencies, fitness centers, spiritual centers, churches, and non-profit centers.

Having the choice to connect through video can help aging seniors feel more connected and fulfilled. It might not be as good as face-to-face conversation, but it can certainly help during this time of social distancing.

Depression

Aging in general can bring on some feeling of sadness or depression.  During Covid-19, the chances of becoming depressed increase significantly due to lack of socializing and fear of contracting the virus.

Check in with clients on how they’re feeling mood-wise.  Temporary sadness is normal, especially during such a crisis as Covid-19. However, if the sadness goes on for more than two or three weeks, or if it becomes more severe, they could be dealing with clinical depression.

If this is the case, being able to direct them to a clinical therapist who can diagnose and treat the depression is necessary.  Again, this can be done via online video sessions or telehealth video. In fact, many public and private healthcare facilities have video sessions setup for the duration of the pandemic.

Support For The Elderly During Covid-19

The following are various things you can do as an in-home health care worker to offer support to the elderly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Consistently ask them how they are feeling emotionally and physically.
  • Encourage them to video chat with their family and friends during this time. If they don’t know how to use video chat, teach them.
  • Encourage them to stick to a daily routine that will bring them a sense of stability and peace.
  • If they are mobile, encourage them to go for a daily walk around their neighborhood or immediate space. Even if it’s only five or ten minutes, physical exercise can boost their mental health.
  • Encourage them to take up new hobbies or engage in ones they have put on the shelf.
  • Encourage them to limit time spent watching the news. Rather, direct them to inspiring movies, shows, podcasts, videos, etc.
  • Let them know that if they are in need, they can count on you. Offer them the highest level of support.

 

During these uncertain times during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important to check how the elderly are doing emotionally, mentally, and physically.  For those that receive in home health care, it’s especially important for personal service workers to know the signs of mental health issues and know proper protocol for getting them some professional support.

Written by Kira Boyd

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