It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but perhaps those hardest hit are seniors. Many older people live on their own and rely on caregivers for assistance with daily activities, transportation, and social interaction. For some, visits with caretakers and family or the classes they take at the community center were essential to their well-being. Community engagement has always played a vital role in keeping seniors healthy and active. However, when the pandemic hit and social distance restrictions began, many seniors instantly lost what they considered a lifeline. Post-Covid, the impact of isolation and the loss of these social connections left many seniors with chronic problems like loneliness, obesity, and depression that worsened during the pandemic.
As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and more people are getting vaccinated, the impact of the increased isolation we have seen in the last year will decrease. However, that won’t happen without effort. Many seniors will continue to isolate themselves as they navigate feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. A recent University of Michigan poll states that one out of five adults over the age of 50 feel their overall mental health has declined since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Impact of Social Isolation on Chronic Conditions
The link between social isolation and chronic conditions is an area of great concern for seniors. Social isolation is known to increase stress, depression, and unhealthy eating habits. According to a University of Washington study, social isolation has been a “core concern” during the pandemic. Because so many chronic health issues are linked to social isolation, it makes sense that increased isolation has exacerbated existing health concerns. Dr. Daniel Hoefer of Sharp Healthcare observed that his socially isolated patients experienced more complications with diabetes and heart failures over the past year compared with those who had strong social connections.
Isolation can also accelerate death due to Alzheimer’s and dementia. For example, the effect of prolonged stress and depression on Alzheimer’s and dementia patients contributed to a 16% increase in deaths this year. “People are dying not just because they were already sick or old, but also because of the conditions under which they are living,” says Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP senior vice president for policy and brain health.
Reclaiming Social Connections Improves Well Being
The most critical action we can take post-Covid is to look forward. We cannot erase the damage inflicted during the pandemic. However, we can hopefully move back into a healthier, more well-balanced mode of living. Of course, re-entering a post-covid existence will not be the same for everybody. Seniors may take large, ambitious steps or choose to approach getting out-and-about with a more cautious outlook. The important thing is that they begin to reclaim a sense of social connectivity.
As the country is finally opening back up, many of us are rediscovering how to function in our communities again. It is mostly joyful. Many of us are reuniting with friends and family, attending social gatherings, going to the doctor, and just enjoying the normal functions of daily living. Unfortunately, for many seniors, going back to normal is not so easy. Many of these people were already coping with self-isolation and depression. With even less contact from the outside world, their mental and physical health has declined.
How Can Caregivers Help?
Now that we are able to connect safely with those that need us most post-Covid, how can caregivers help the seniors who have been suffering alone for so long? What are some tools to help seniors begin to re-engage with the outside world again?
- Acknowledge that the tension and anxiety associated with re-entering social circles is a normal response. Talking to others who are experiencing similar feelings is helpful.
- Prioritize overdue healthcare appointments
- Make time to reconnect with friends and family in a setting that feels safe to all parties. It could be a coffee date or a picnic in the park. The important thing is to begin the process of re-connection.
- Practice self-care through journaling, listening to music, and taking time to identify feelings. Seniors are emerging from the pandemic with more respect for the importance of time management and self-care.
Living through the pandemic has highlighted the importance of social connectivity between people and its impact on seniors. Unfortunately, nearly 30% of seniors live alone, and this last year has left them navigating the challenges of social isolation with staggering effects. With increased access to mental and physical care, seniors hardest hit by Covid-19 isolation are now able to reconnect. It will take some time, but with access to community resources and the assistance of caregivers, seniors can move toward living healthy and productive lives post-covid.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and more independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.