Mental health problems are common among seniors but are likely exacerbated during a crisis such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 health crisis has meant a very different life for each of us, from our work and school routines to our health habits and social lives. The current pandemic doesn’t just put our physical health at risk, it can also be detrimental to our mental health.
This can be especially true for senior citizens who are more likely to suffer from mental health issues which may include isolation, sleep disorders, cognitive deterioration, confusion states, affective and anxiety disorders, dementia, and psychosis, among other things.
Whether you’re a senior citizen, a senior’s loved one, or an employee in the senior care industry, there are small things you can do every day to help you get through this health crisis with a little less anxiety.
One of the biggest challenges to our mental health right now is the unknown. The virus is unpredictable, supply chains are at risk, guidelines from one municipality to another are inconsistent, and the situation is changing every single day.
That loss of control can be extremely frustrating and disorienting, so do what you can to focus on the things you can control.
Prioritize sticking to a regular sleep schedule, working in the same places or during the same times of day, and maintaining typical hygiene practices (like showering every day and keeping up with the laundry).
Routines are especially important for the elderly, as cognitive disabilities and confusion states can lead to increased anxiety. Sticking to a regular schedule can help mitigate the feeling of being out of control and overwhelm.
There have been plenty of studies illustrating the importance of community and connection. And, while you may be practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean you need to practice social disconnection. Take advantage of technologies old and new to stay in touch with family and friends, especially if one or both of you are in isolation on your own.
Phone calls, text messages, video chats, and handwritten notes; while none of these can replace the joy of getting together in person, they can help us stay connected. This is particularly now when we need it the most.
With social distancing particularly important for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, technology can really play an important role in staying connected. There are a number of wonderful devices on the market that make it easy for anyone, no matter how technically challenged.
Devices like The GrandPad or Echo Show make it easy to check email, view family photos, listen to music, watch videos or have video calls with family.
Whether or not you’re interested in pursuing a traditional meditation practice, building up your mindfulness muscle is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety, fear, and stress.
Mindfulness is about releasing the past and the future; it’s about remaining in the present and focusing on what is only in this moment. Mindfulness is choosing to pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel in any given moment, rather than getting caught up in rehashing the past or worrying about the future.
Try turning off the news and disconnecting from social media, even if only for a certain amount of time each day.
If all else fails, taking a big deep breath and letting it out slowly can make a world of difference in how you feel. Notice how your muscles relax as you let out your breath.
In addition to relieving stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic that is affecting all of our lives, research shows that proactive care and intervention can slow cognitive changes that happen with aging.
If you or your loved one has never tried to meditate before, try using an application like Calm for short guided meditations that can help with a focus on the breath or relaxation techniques.
Another thing you may be reading a lot about lately is the advice to “practice self-care.” That may seem easy to brush off, especially if you’re picturing self-care as a day at the spa or a week at a mountain retreat.
The truth is that self-care is really just about taking care of your basic needs first, no matter what.
When it comes to our senior loved ones, practicing self-care might not come so easily. It can be easy to forget to take meds, brush teeth, or keep a doctor’s appointment.
The best self-care looks like brushing your hair, even if you’re not going anywhere; making the time to prepare a nutritious meal, even when something less wholesome would be faster and easier; or committing to moving your body regularly by taking a daily walk, dancing in the living room, lifting light weights, or taking a gentle yoga or tai chi class.
Social distancing is important, of course, but there are plenty of ways to connect online and get the balancing self-care or classes you’re looking for.
Self-care can look like taking a long relaxing bath, reading a good book, deep breathing, mediation and exercise, taking a daily multi-vitamin, drinking plenty of water, reaching out to say hello to a loved one via phone or video call. Self-care can take many forms and it doesn’t really matter how we do it, only that we do it.
When self-care becomes a challenge because of age, it’s important to look at in-home eldercare, senior day social care, or even assisted living situations.
Looking for some additional support in easing your stress? We can help you by managing your family’s long-term care insurance claims. Read about our services, or better yet, reach out today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can help you maximize your policy benefits, and call us today at 844-858-4500.