Some public health officials believe we have entered a ‘fourth wave’ of COVID-19 in mid-summer, with a spike of new cases around the country. By now, people should be aware of the risks as well as common methods to avoid getting infected, everything from practicing good hygiene to getting immunized.
The team at Accredited Home Care, which includes several RNs, promises not to use this entire post to promote the value of vaccinations, although we think they’re a fine idea and a smart decision. Plus, they’re free from most providers so the “I can’t afford it” excuse doesn’t work.
But we do want to do is remind readers of some of the challenges that COVID has presented, beyond the physical symptoms that people who are diagnosed with it deal with along with their caregivers.
The condition has affected our lives in so many ways, including financial. Some businesses are just starting to come back and some never will at all – the owners may have shut their doors and let their people go for what they hoped was a temporary measure.
COVID-19 also had social impacts and hit seniors especially hard. Even if they weren’t directly infected by the disease, most of them were concerned about possible exposure. Those with weak immune systems or other health conditions were warned that if they were infected, COVID would hit them hard and possibly kill them.
Some seniors already may have been reluctant to go outside or interact with others due to mobility concerns or risks of other infections. But COVID made this prospect even more frightening.
Plus, COVID has been such a threat that many people didn’t just want to stay inside, they didn’t want visitors either. Or if people had to come over, they were required to take all sorts of health and safety precautions.
All these conditions – including a higher possibility of actually getting sick and dying within days in some cases – added to the high-stress levels that many seniors have already had. And though some people are hoping for the worst of COVID has passed, especially those who have already received immunizations, there are still some risks out there.
Mental health concerns
Mental Health America, a national organization that encourages improvements in mental health options as well as advocates for mental health treatment as part of an overall wellness plan, recently completed a study of health throughout America.
It found that COVID made life difficult for many people, and many weren’t in great shape to start with.
For instance, it said that mental health problems were already pretty high and continuing to rise. In 2017-18, about 19 percent of adults were dealing with a mental illness, which increased by 1.5 million from the 2016-2017 numbers.
The results were acquired from an online survey of 1.5 million people from January to September 2020. It was summarized in an annual “State of Mental Health.”
The study showed, unsurprising, that diagnoses of depression and anxiety increased dramatically.
Between January and September 2020, a total of 315,220 people indicated anxiety on the online screening, which was a 93 percent increase from the same period in 2019. About 534,784 took the depression screening in January-September 2020, a 62 percent increase from 2019.
It also indicated that reports of anxiety and depression continue to grow.
As of September 2020, 1 in 8 people indicated moderate to severe anxiety. Similar numbers have remained consistent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shared similar findings.
The number of adults with symptoms of anxiety disorder in June 2020 was about three times as high as reported at the same time in June 2019, 25.5 percent to 8.1 percent.) Adults with depression were about four times as high as the same time in 2019. (24.3 percent to 6.5 percent.)
Increased thoughts of suicide are also on the rise.
Ways to help
By now, many seniors have received the all-clear to leave their homes or at least have visitors. Social centers are reopening. Some stores still have ‘senior hours’ where older shoppers can come in a little earlier to minimize exposure to them and by them.
But there are likely still high numbers of people who are still concerned about going outside, especially as reports emerge of COVID still spreading in pockets around the country.
This fear can be paralyzing and lead to depression. And depression can cause physical and mental problems, including a lack of motivation, a weaker immune system, fatigue, and pain.
Helping them avoid depression – and stay comfortable — can include:
- Inviting them on “supervised” walks. Choose a walking route that minimizes exposure to people, animals, or other potential threats, such as a trail that isn’t well frequented. Walk at times of the day when there are fewer people around, such as early mornings.
- Teach them online options. If they are still concerned about going outside, teach them ways to interact with loved ones virtually. It can include video conferencing programs like Zoom and Skype. This at least they see and talk to family members and other loved ones in real-time without having to see them in person.
- Have a trusted person provide information about current risks. Because there’s such a strong view of “I don’t know what experts to believe,” they may not necessarily believe something if they hear it on the news or social media. But a medical professional who is known and respected might be the right person to check-in or tell them it’s OK to go outside as long as precautions are taken.