The elderly have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many know that the elderly face the highest risk for mortality or illness, but less is said about the mental health challenges involved. Seniors are vulnerable in the best of times, but there are reports of increased anxiety and depression due to social isolation, illness, grief, loss, and financial challenges.
Those in assisted living facilities or nursing home communities can encounter these challenges, which unfortunately may then lead to higher instances of death from various underlying conditions not directly attributed to the virus.
Not prepared to handle the issue
Many assisted living facilities or nursing home communities to focus on the physical care of the elderly, and the staff certainly interact with clients. Still, these people are often not trained to recognize or address mental health issues. Making matters worse, there is limited access to outside help at this time, and the employment pool was short on geriatric medicine and psychiatry before the pandemic, thus stretching those options even further.
Telehealth may be an option
Many who seek medical care start the process using video conferencing to speak with a medical professional. It can also be helpful to those with preexisting psychiatric illnesses or those who now show symptoms. However, people must recognize the signs before loved ones can get treatment.
The elderly can help themselves by asking for help or support during these difficult times, but, unfortunately, these pleas or requests can go unheeded or misunderstood by their regular caregivers.
Families may need to act
Families likely have checked in with elderly loved ones via video conferencing, telephone or perhaps even waving from outside the facility, but there is no replacing the human contact. Moreover, it can be difficult to motivate these folks eat, sleep or take care of themselves if they are unable to provide the support in person to take these measures.
Staff obliged to act
If a loved one’s mental health deteriorates to the point where it affects them physically, caregivers must act. If they fail to do so, it may be necessary for the family to take action. It can involve moving the ailing loved one or taking legal action if there is a case of gross negligence. Mental illness can be challenging to understand, but the care facilities must act when something is awry even during this time of COVID-19 related deaths. Those with questions can speak with an attorney with experience handling elderly abuse to determine the best course of action.