The Emotional Effects of the COVID Pandemic Persist in Older Adults

doctor discussing with a senior patient in therapy sessions There is no denying that the pandemic has upended our lives. Since 2020, we’ve experienced ups and downs that have involved losses, lockdowns, and the lingering fear that the virus may once again begin to spread more quickly than we can keep up with it. The changes that occurred in 2020 were abrupt and they were severe. It was inevitable that the new conditions for living safely would carry psychological implications. According to surveys, adults of all ages reported feeling more irritable and on edge, they had trouble sleeping and found it difficult to maintain a healthy appetite. The emotional effects of the pandemic may have been even more significant for older adults than younger generations. The data was clear, elderly adults were far more likely to become severely ill from the coronavirus and were at a greater risk of death from the virus. There is no way that news such as this could degrade emotional health. We may be moving beyond the pandemic to some degree, but that does not mean the psychological impact on any person will disappear.

According to an early study on the effects of the pandemic, nearly half of seniors agreed that pandemic-related stress had a negative impact on their mental health. One in four seniors reported feeling anxious or depressed as a result of the virulent illness running amock in society. The necessity to socially distance undoubtedly played a part in people’s sense of well-being. Seniors, whether at home or in nursing facilities, or senior care facilities, lost the benefits of face-to-face time with friends and loved ones. Feelings of isolation and hopelessness were the result of this shift in how we live. Still, culturally speaking, the senior population tends to be one that does not ask for help in the emotional wellness department. Regardless of persistent anxiety and depression, many seniors resist the idea of therapy. This puts the responsibility of care on those around a person who may be showing signs of pandemic-related stress and depression.

The Benefits of Therapy for Seniors

There are multiple benefits to be gained from engaging in an appropriate therapeutic program, whether it is an inpatient program or outpatient visits with a licensed therapist. At Summit Healthcare Senior Behavioral Unit, our specialists provide short-term inpatient care for seniors who are struggling with motivation, cognitive impairment, and other symptoms. Some of the ways in which seniors can benefit include:

  • Adoption of a healthy mindset. Often, our mindset suffers because we don’t have the emotional resources that come from just talking about our concerns and frustrations. Studies are clear about the value of living a fulfilling life at any age. For older adults, therapy is tailored to their stage of life and how meaning can be found in that.
  • Find new sources of meaning. Older adults have the opportunity to tap into parts of themselves they didn’t cultivate during their working days. In retirement, a senior can develop new interests and hobbies that perhaps they never considered previously. Now that it is safer to reengage socially, these new hobbies can also help seniors develop new friendships that make like more joyous.
  • Therapy teaches older adults that it is ok to ask for help and that doing so can bring significant benefits. Asking for help does not diminish one’s independence. On the contrary, the senior who fosters optimal emotional wellness may preserve their independence that much better.
  • Making new choices. In the therapeutic process, adults of all ages gain insight into their coping mechanisms and how they may be causing more harm than good. As emotional wellness improves, patients often rely far less on their unhealthy coping strategies than they once did.

Optimal emotional wellness depends on having a strong support system. Studies indicate that support and validation are essential aspects of healing and developing the kind of self-awareness that contributes to a strong sense of wellness and confidence. Summit Healthcare’s Senior Care Unit receives referrals from skilled nursing centers, senior housing, primary care providers, other healthcare professionals, as well as family members and patient self-referral. Referrals for admission are accepted 24 hours/7 days a week. Call 928-537-6890 for more information.

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