What impact have lockdowns had on the mental health of older adults?
Countless limitations such as social distancing, quarantine, and lockdowns have been executed worldwide since 2019 because of the coronavirus outbreak. As an obvious consequence, most people got banned from many social connections, communications, and amusements, which caused many mental troubles among them. So, mental health became an unprecedentedly important matter for governments and society executive organizations. The statistics show that mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and isolation enormously increased among these years. Older adults were the most fragile group during the Covid crisis. Higher risks of infection and mortality make social distancing more essential for older adults. It was expected to see unsatisfactory results in seniors’ mental health. But the results show the opposite!
In 2020, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) published research findings on different age ranges’ mental health, indicating better mental health situations in older adults than younger ones. According to the results, anxiety and depressive disorder are reported about 6 percent in 65-year-olds or more, uncommonly lower than the reported 35 percent in adults between 24 to 45 years old. Shocking, right?!
However, there’s a huge “but” in here! The results are related to older adults with the average rate of income and a medium level of lifestyle. Clearly, mental health states can be more complex in seniors living in nursing houses or suffering from physical or mental diseases.
My brother is too young to be in a nursing facility. He’s just 62. Sadly, he has some health issues, and a fall on his way to a dialysis center where he broke his back has left him in one for the rest of his life. For him, the lockdown was a challenge to adapt to, but he was finally getting his mind around it.
Today, the institution’s social worker called, informing me that the Department of Health has issued new legislation requiring patients who leave the facility for treatments such as dialysis or wound care to be isolated when they return. This law will take effect tomorrow. So my brother will be imprisoned in his room with a new roommate and unable to leave.
I’m not sure whether this means they’ll stop his physical treatment or not. How will they keep him moving and gaining strength if he isn’t allowed to leave his room? Those rooms are small. I’m sure my brother has been taking the double dosage of antidepressants since the lockout, which I feel is why he has found a way to cope with anything.
Can you imagine being confined to a single room with a stranger 24 hours a day, seven days a week for an unknown amount of time? Only to leave your room three times a week to be hooked up to a dialysis machine for four hours before returning to your room. He’s now like a prisoner in a cell.
Many factors determine how people react to a crisis. Most seniors, in general, have experienced depression, stress, anxiety, sleep disruptions, and thoughts of suicide which is absolutely predictable. Some older adults do not have the resources needed to deal with the stress of lockdowns. This includes material (e.g., lack of access to smart technology), social (e.g., family members or friends), or cognitive or biological (e.g., incapacity to engage in physical exercise or participate in activities or routines) resources. At first, the COVID pandemic was seen as a chance to spend some time with the family, but seniors living in care homes were forced to see their family members even less than before. And factors such as isolation, fear of infection, supplies running out, boredom, and lack of physical contact have impacted seniors more than younger adults.
Lockdown has led to a notable rise in feelings of depression, anxiety, negative mood swings (e.g., anger, fatigue, and confusion), and a decline in sleep quality compared to pre-lockdown. The follow-up has demonstrated that mental well-being, depression, and disturbances in mood have still been severely affected post-lockdown. The lockdown has adversely influenced older adults’ mental well-being. Older people’s mental and physical health is negatively impacted during the social distancing for COVID-19. So, I think a multi-component program with exercise and psychological approaches is the best for this population during confinement.