It’s not surprising that a reported 25% of adults 65 years and older have experienced some level of anxiety or depression during the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, seniors and older adults— being at a higher risk for severe illness with coronavirus—were urged by the Centers for Disease Control to stay home and limit interactions with friends and family. While these restrictions helped protect segments of the senior population, they also exacerbated feelings of social isolation and loneliness among its members. Even seniors assisted by a family caregiver or a paid in-home caregiver may have struggled with loneliness from a lack of social activities or with anxiety from watching or reading continuous news about the pandemic’s progression.
You would think that with the lifting of restrictions state-by-state, older adults would experience a lifting of spirits as they look forward to returning to their regular routines pre-Covid. But the reality is that there will be long-lasting mental health effects related to the pandemic. Like natural disasters or war, public health crises trigger post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression.
Indeed, older adults and seniors can expect to feel anxiety, stress and even clinical depression as the nation re-emerges from the pandemic. They should accept any strangeness they may feel, as we all face new challenges surrounding the return to “normal life” and the uncertainties regarding Covid-19 variants. If you or a senior loved one are worried about navigating the post-Covid world, try some of the following suggestions for feeling less stress and anxiety and finding ways to reconnect with positive results. A family member or a friend to an older person can adopt these tips to help support a beloved senior’s mental health.
Give yourself time to adjust. Ease into re-emergence it by scheduling dental and medical appointments that you had the option to postpone during lockdown. Make dates to see a few of your closest friends and family (being mindful of following CDC recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals). By going slow, you’ll feel a sense of control and safety.
Accept any feelings of anxiety or loss. These feelings are a normal response to re-emergence, as dealing with a pandemic forced many of us to confront our thoughts and feelings about mortality and death, and indeed perhaps with losing a friend or a loved one to coronavirus. If necessary, make an appointment with a professional mental health therapist so you can talk through your feelings and get coping tools.
Slowly reconnect with social circles. You may find that your senior social networks (church, civic groups, clubs) may have shrunk through death, disability or people moving away. Still try to reach out, albeit safely by wearing a mask and social distancing to help support efforts to achieve herd immunity.
Pace yourself on outings. If the idea of eating inside a restaurant makes you anxious, try eating at a sidewalk café. Change can feel uncomfortable, even when it might be a positive change.
Focus on the present. Try not to think back on what was and instead concentrate on what is in front of you. This type of acceptance will prevent a downward spiral into worry and negative thoughts.
Give yourself a pat on the back. Did you manage to navigate social isolation using healthy coping mechanisms like taking a walk, meditating, doing yoga, exercising, making time for a hobby or calling a friend? Even when you had some bad days, give yourself credit for bouncing back during an unimaginably difficult time.
There will be more challenges to come but remember that as a species, human beings are naturally resilient. Just a little bit of self-care will go a long way in developing a deeper resilience and getting you over any mental health hurdles. If you find you or a senior loved one might need some extra support at this time of re-emergence, don’t hesitate to reach out to a compassionate and knowledgeable Amada Senior Care advisor. Click here to find an Amada Senior Care location near you or call us at 877-442-6232. We are happy to help.
“6 Mental Health Tips for Seniors Entering a Post-Covid World” written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.