Coping Tips to Keep Seniors Mentally Healthy during Extended COVID-19

(FAIRFIELD, CT– May 13, 2020 – A recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 45 percent of all adults believe the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on their mental health.  In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older are dealing with some level of depression. With social isolation measures in place in much of the world, loneliness has become a familiar facet of everyday life, but especially for older Americans living by themselves, in nursing homes or retirement communities.  Assisted Living Services, Inc., a family-owned, award-winning homecare agency in Connecticut, offers tips to help bridge the quarantine gap with seniors to keep them mentally stimulated and positively engaged.

“COVID-19 and the mandated social isolation that it brings, is reshaping everyone’s family dynamics and taking a huge toll on a senior’s psyche and overall mental health,” said Mario D’Aquila, MBA and COO of Assisted Living Services, Inc. “Checking in on elderly family members, friends and neighbors on a daily basis, is key during this pandemic to prevent depression.”

According to recent research conducted by Helio Psychiatry, loneliness increases risk for depression and anxiety and heightens feelings of stress- factors that contribute to worsening physical health and poor health behaviors, including substance abuse, poor nutrition, increased sedentariness and poor sleep quality. 

D’Aquila notes that many older adults are already living alone and isolated due to death of a spouse or having mobility or transportation challenges that often prevent social activities in the community, but the current mandated quarantine has forced them to give up what little interaction they may have had before the pandemic.  “This might teach societies an important lesson- that isolated older adults battle loneliness and face challenges every day, not just during times of crisis.”

Identifying mental health concerns:

D’Aquila adds that since many seniors are stoic and may not readily admit to feeling lonely or depressed, family members and caregivers should follow the CDC guidelines by looking for the following symptoms in their elderly clients and loved ones:

  • Fear and worry about their own health
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Acting confused
  • Having delusions or hallucinations
  • Trouble remembering
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Increased irritability
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Slowed movements
  • More demanding behaviors
  • Complains more often

He also offers some ways that isolated seniors can improve their mental health and minimize depression during the pandemic quarantine:

  • Create a routine– Change out pajamas, shower and make a to-do list of all the things they want to achieve each day to create a sense of normalcy and productivity.
  • Make Social Interaction A Priority- Seniors should use computers or tablets to stay connected to family, loved ones, and friends through video chats and playing online games, as well as utilize the variety of free apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, Google Hang Out, etc. In addition, picking up the phone and  just “old school” talking with others sharing the same experience can be therapeutic.
  • Find and Engage in Multiple Hobbies– Activities that capture your attention are a great way to pass time when you’re on your own.  These can include reading or listening to books, gardening, knitting, woodworking, crocheting, painting, photography, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, cooking new recipes, learning a new language, feeding the birds, etc.  There are many tasks to break up the day and, where possible, change the environment for different activities.
  • Body care– Choose healthy, regular meals, get plenty of sleep and exercise when possible, which could include walking outdoors or on a treadmill, indoor stretching, Tai Chi, yoga or practicing meditation.
  • Limit media intake– Stay informed about the situation via reliable sources, but limit news and social media intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Focus on the positives– Keep a “glass half full” attitude by creating a daily gratitude journal, reading spiritual literature and connecting to a Higher Power.
  • Take one day at a time– Try not to project too far into the future by remembering that these are temporary measures and you are not alone.

D’Aquila emphasizes that if the depression is severe or isn’t being relieved with any self-help options, it may be time to seek outside assistance. Online searches can yield an array of mental health practitioners that conduct cognitive behavioral therapy and/or prescribe medication to help ease depression.

About Assisted Living Services, Inc.

Since 1996, comprehensive home care agency Assisted Living Services, Inc. in Cheshire with branch locations in Clinton and Fairfield has provided quality care to residents across Connecticut. Their award-winning CarePlus program blends personal care with technological safety and monitoring devices from sister company Assisted Living Technologies, Inc. Learn more by visiting www.assistedlivingct.com or calling 203.634.8668. The family-owned company received three distinguished 2020 Best of Home Care awards – Leader in Excellence, Employer of Choice and Provider of Choice. The Leader in Excellence Award is the highest distinction and is bestowed only to select home care businesses that consistently place among the top in 10 or more quality metrics. This ranks ALS among the top 15% of more than 1,700 home care providers nationwide participating in the Home Care Pulse Satisfaction Management Program.


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