Covid-19 and Lonliness
Millions of families across America have been separated from their elderly loved ones due to Covid-19 lockdowns. Many facilities and families have taken advantage of technology to stay in touch; other facilities broke out the arts and crafts supplies to make posters and signs that can be seen by family and friends visiting through windows.
These are creative ways to express our love, but they aren’t adequate substitutes for hugs. Research shows that loneliness can affect physical and emotional health in a number of ways up to and including: boosting your stress level, altering brain function, increasing heart problems and stroke risk, triggering depression, poor decision making, decreases in memory and spurring on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Defined by experts as feeling lonely more than once a week, loneliness is more than just being alone. It’s a state of mind in which you feel alone even when you’re not. This can leave you feeling empty, alone and even unwanted. This causes people to exercise less, eat foods that are bad for them, sleep poorly and experience daytime fatigue.
I wanted to get a better understanding of this situation so I reached out to Mr. Tim nicely; he is the marketing and communications associate with Scott Hill retirement community in Clifton Forge, Virginia. I asked him how they’ve been faring the last six or seven months.
Tim: Yeah, it’s been tough a lot of our residents are wanting everything to go back to normal but we’ve been doing good; we’ve been finding ways to adapt and kind of change how we do things to where they can still live the best possible life they could have.
Q: Have you guys implemented any visitation or outside activities?
A: Yeah, as far as visitation goes, we’re still not allowing visitors in the building. When everything first started it was almost a complete shutdown. We were asking people to remain in their apartments. It wasn’t a requirement of course, but we had to shut down activities and meals were being delivered to rooms instead of in the dining room. But now, our dining room is open again. We are allowing visitors to come and visit outside in our courtyard area around the building so you know visitors are allowed again things are slowly starting to get back to normal. We’re starting to implement some activities again. We’re moving in the right direction.
Danny: I bet that was a big morale boost for everyone involved.
Tim: Oh, absolutely when the activities started coming back that’s when everyone’s morale started to get back up. For a while we didn’t even have an activities calendar, so it’s been good to see things posted around the building again and seeing people out and about.
Q: How has the staff tried to help with the isolation?
A: A lot of socialization and checking in on people. We make sure we greet people in the hallway, you know, we have our masks and we keep distance, but just making sure people are getting the interaction that they would normally be getting with visitors and going places. We kind of create that environment here for them.
Q: Are there any upcoming events the residents are looking forward to.
A: Yeah, I wanted to do something for the big holidays; you know, we’ve been kind of playing it by ear for what we can do. For example, Halloween is coming up; we are gonna do a parade around the building where people can drive through we’re gonna set up stations where residents will be able to hand out prepackaged bags of candy while wearing masks. People aren’t gonna have to get out of their cars, but they’ll be able to drive through. residents will be stationed around where they can see the people in their costumes from a distance, they’ll be able to greet the kids and see the kids and they’ll still get that interaction while maintaining a safe distance and isolation.
Tim: We want people to stay in touch with their loved ones whether it be phone calls, letters or arranging day trips as more stores and restaurants start to open up.
Dr. James O’Day, Vice President of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network said, “Monitoring, managing and supporting the social aspects of your life is an important way to maintain sound mental health, especially during this time it’s important to maintain and utilize the support systems you have in place and to try to develop new.”
All of us have endured this pandemic in our own way, but we can get through this together. I would like to thank Mr. Nicely for his time and cite the Hartford healthcare behavioral network for notes used in this report. Scott Hill is a business supporter of Allegheny Mountain radio.