fbpx
COVID-19
HP LCG is Boston's #1 resource for qualified RN staffing support for organizations, COVID-19 initiatives, and mobile testing sites. For private one to one clientele, we maintain our promise to deliver the highest standard of care based on guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Public Health. Your safety always comes first!
  
Book Now
×


HP Legacy Care Group Blog

No more posts
social-distancing-tips.jpg

July 30, 2020 Coronavirus

Prior to the pandemic, we may have taken social outings for granted. Going out to eat, seeing live music, enjoying a basketball game, or even hugging our friends were just typical weekend activities. After months of being on lockdown, we are all eager to get back to “normal.” With phased re-openings in most states, it is easy to want jump full-throttle back into the pre-pandemic life we knew. Not so fast! Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. Numbers are still on the rise in a lot of places and caution is key.

According to the CDC, as of today (July 29, 2020), there are 4,339,997 cases of Coronavirus and 148, 866 deaths in the US. While we may have flattened the curve back in March, we have yet to find a solution to this global crisis. Perhaps an even bigger obstacle is that the lockdown has created an economic decline that will continue to dive deeper if we remain shuttered. As restaurants and businesses begin to reopen, it is important that we don’t lose sight of important safety precautions, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings. Read on for some tips on how to navigate these challenging times.

Social Distancing Tips for State Re-Openings

  1. Practice social distancing when gathering in groups outside of your household.

After months of complete and total lockdown, it can be tempting to open the floodgates entirely when given the chance. As states begin to re-open and gathering with others is becoming less taboo, it is still important to practice appropriate social distancing measures. If a meeting, gathering, or event simply cannot succeed in a virtual setting (i.e. on Zoom or another teleconferencing platform), the CDC recommends taking it outside, where attendees can be six feet apart. Be sure to wear your face covering and practice proper hygiene. Wash your hands often and avoid any communal food stations or offerings (i.e. buffet line, snack table, etc.). If you are drinking alcohol, be sure it doesn’t cloud your judgement or allow you to slack on safety measures and precautions.

  1. The early bird catches the… cleaner grocery store.

Now that states are re-opening and many people are beginning to return to work, some of our “normal” patterns and behaviors are resurfacing. For example, rush hour traffic is a thing again. (Who would’ve thought that rush hour – a semblance of “normalcy” – could be so missed?) Similarly, grocery stores are seeing crowds at peak times again.

Most people shop for food after work (so, after 5pm) or on weekends. Since it is important to maintain six feet of social distance from others, it is best to visit the store at non-peak times. Early weekday mornings are perfect. Most people are either working or sleeping. Plus, all of the cleaning and restocking happens overnight, so you will have a more hygienic experience with more food options. Win, win!

  1. Take the stairs whenever possible.

If you live in an urban setting, elevators are simply a fact of life. In these strange times, where the germs of others have basically been categorized as a biohazard, the last place you should choose to be is inside of a tiny moving room with nothing other than strangers and buttons that everyone else touches. Of course, things happen and sometimes you have no choice, but when you do, we recommend opting for the stairs. Not only do you have better chances of maintaining proper social distance and avoiding dirty buttons and surfaces, but you can also get a cardio workout in. Anything that improves your respiratory and cardiovascular health is a huge plus with the virus that we are all up against.

  1. Be socially distant, not socially isolated.

What is social distancing? It is maintaining six feet of space (or more) between yourself and anyone outside of your household. While this concept has been at the forefront of every news broadcast for the past five months, from a mental health standpoint, it is exceedingly important to remember what social distancing is not. For the sake of humanity, community, art, for the sake of so many important human things, putting physical space between bodies absolutely can not become synonymous with interrupting our connection to one another.

No matter what, make sure that your social distancing does not become social isolation. Meet up with friends outside. Join a sports league or fitness class that happens in a park. Go camping with your family or close friends. Just be sure to sleep in your own tent and be careful with sharing food and drinks. With a little bit of creativity, your social life can begin to revitalize a bit, especially during these warmer months. Safety does not have to happen in solitude.

  1. Take care of the seniors in your life.

As states are reopening and life is looking a bit more like it used to, it is exceedingly important to protect our vulnerable population. Even though the rules are relaxing, we still do not have a solution to the problem that is COVID-19. Hospitals and healthcare centers may be more prepared than they were in early March from our efforts to flatten the curve, but the fact remains that there is still no vaccine and for many who are sick or elderly, no cure for the novel Coronavirus.

If you live with senior family members or frequently interact with them, your lifestyle and choices can directly impact their health and well-being. If you share a household, it is imperative to put their needs ahead of your desire to socialize. If you find that you can’t always practice social distancing or hygiene, avoid close contact with those who are vulnerable for 14 days after an incident of potential exposure.

It is also important to remember that prior to the outbreak of this pandemic, isolation and depression were already greatly affecting our senior population. Make sure to call and check in on them. Offer to help with grocery runs and errands. Bring them books, movies, and activities to keep them engaged and active.

Related:
Get Tech Savvy: 3 Best Apps for Seniors

Do your best to limit contact with others. If you must be out of your house or are back to work, wash your hands frequently. Wear a face covering. Stay six feet away from others whenever possible. If you believe you have been exposed to someone with symptoms, quarantine yourself from your loved ones for 14 days. Try your hardest to avoid unnecessary risks. If you have to be out and about, make smart choices.


healthy-immune-system-scaled-1-1200x800.jpg

Our health and the health and well-being of our loved ones have been top-of-mind as we’ve endured the last three months of a nationwide pandemic. We are practicing social distancing, and have become diligent practitioners of good hygiene in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus while protecting ourselves and the livelihood of others. 

Currently (June 2020), there is no specific cure or treatment for COVID-19, however, immunization and infectious disease specialists are working intently to deliver a potential vaccine. In the meantime, it is now more important than ever before to incorporate positive lifestyle habits that will help you stay healthy and support your immune system, which is command central for your body to fight infections and viruses.

Based on what we know today, people who are at higher risk of infection from COVID-19 are older adults and anyone with underlying medical conditions. People who are immunocompromised are among those who are more susceptible to infection and are at higher risk for severe illness and potentially fatal outcomes.

Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. Many conditions can cause a person to have a suppressed immune system, such as:

  • People who are undergoing cancer treatment
  • Bone marrow or organ transplant recipients
  • Smokers
  • People who have used steroid hormones or other immune weakening medications for a prolonged period

If you do have a compromised immune system, it is particularly essential to practice healthy lifestyle habits to help ward off illness and infection.

What is the Immune System?

The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, proteins, and tissues that work together to protect the body against infection to maintain overall health. It plays an essential role in protecting the body against harmful germs and substances that could cause illness, infection, or disease.  

Several organs make up the immune system including your spleen, adenoids, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, tonsils, and bone marrow. Together, these cells work to create immune cells, otherwise known as white blood cells which are responsible for detecting and killing foriegn substances such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This process creates antibodies that can discern good cells from bad cells, eradicating them, and protecting the body against infection. 

There are two subsets of the immune system that work in concert with one another in a healthy and properly functioning system. Innate Immunity is something we are all born with. This system recognizes an invader, which stimulates an immune response eliminating bacteria, viruses, or any other foreign matter. This innate immunity includes the skin and mucous membranes of the throat and stomach. If a pathogen manages to evade the innate response, the adaptive or acquired immunity will take over.

Our Adaptive (Acquired) Immunity develops over time as we are exposed to various types of bacteria, fungi, or viruses, either through exposure to an infection or through vaccination. Over time, the body develops antibodies specific to certain pathogens based on the body’s memory to past exposure. 

Can I Strengthen My Immune System?

Keeping your immune system healthy year-round is essential in preventing infection and disease. Healthcare providers, nutritionists, scientists, and others have endorsed lifestyle improvements, healthy nutritional habits, and positive mental health as contributors to an efficient immune system.

Related:
Doctor’s Orders: Health Benefits of Laughter
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

With our concerns about the infectious nature of the coronavirus, we may be more concerned than usual about staying healthy and strong. For those of us who are not in the best physical shape, or at our healthiest before the virus, we may be wondering how to get healthy fast.  

The notion of “boosting” your immune system quickly is appealing, particularly during a time of increased vulnerability to an infectious virus.  We are bombarded daily with advertisements claiming certain vitamins and herbal supplements as effective ways to strengthen our immune system and improve our health. Supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to vitamins, supplements, and magic powders enticing consumers looking for ways to manage day-to-day health. 

Not so fast! There is little scientific support to the efficacy of supplements or herbal preparations in improving overall health or having the ability to enhance the immune system. Researchers have found that vitamins may be beneficial to people who are malnourished, but that the average American adult is not. And, if you were relatively healthy before, supplements will do little to sustain that health. So what can we do to strengthen our immune system?

Healthy Living For A Healthy Immune System 

A healthy lifestyle as a whole has always been the best defense against the flu, viruses, and disease. Every part of your body will function better, including your immune system when you follow basic healthy habits. Some recommendations from Harvard Medical Health are below: 

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands: Germs typically start off by being airborne, but can survive for periods of time on certain surfaces. Germs and bacteria can be transmitted by contaminated hands to your eyes, nose, and mouth. Be conscious of what you touch, try not to touch your face, and always practice good hygiene. If you cannot wash your hands immediately, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  

Maintain a healthy weight: Eating fruits and vegetables will naturally provide the body with essential nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and D as well as antioxidants which will support the immune system. Zinc is known to boost white blood cells and can be found in nuts, beans, and lentils.  

Exercise regularly: According to the American Heart Association, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to gain health benefits. With stay-at-home restrictions and social distancing practice, this may feel like a lot. Take a 30-minute walk or another activity, 5 times a week and you’re there.

Keep stress at bay: Living during a pandemic is stressful. And stress does have a negative impact on our immune system. If it is possible to avoid stressful situations, do so. If you feel stressed, try practicing meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to help alleviate these feelings. 

Get vaccinated: Staying up to date with vaccinations is probably the best defense against the flu and viruses. In getting a vaccine for the current flu or viruses, our bodies will recognize the pathogen if you are exposed.

Whether you practice healthy habits or rely on over the counter vitamins or herbal supplements, it is always recommended you maintain regularly scheduled medical appointments and discuss any vitamins you are taking with your physician to be sure they are appropriate for you.  


Nurses-in-Jeopardy-of-Coronavirus-Burnout-scaled-e1590156604289.jpg

In hospitals around the world, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are fighting to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, a highly contagious and little known virus that has infected over 1.5 million US citizens and has killed nearly 87,000 people at the time of this post. 

Nursing staff are on the frontlines and are affected in all settings: within the community, primary and social care, redeployment, clinical placement, hospital wards, and more. Nurses are bravely responding to this crisis without question of their duty.

Historically, professional nurses have brought compassion, ethical and competent care while meeting the medical needs of the communities they serve. However, they are now finding themselves in uncharted territory in response to the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has required an unprecedented, fast-paced response from the nursing community. This response has been challenged by exposure to a highly contagious virus, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), work overload, and increased moral stress when required to make high-stake decisions on patient care. 

The Risk Of Burnout 

Nurses play an integral role in promoting health, preventing illness, and ensuring the well-being of their patients throughout their healthcare journey. They are no strangers to stress and tragedy in this profession. However, the coronavirus has upped the ante on anxiety, increased levels of stress, and exhaustion.

Related:
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

High and increasing rates of burnout amongst healthcare providers have been well-documented. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” citing 63% of hospital nurses reporting burnout before the COVID-19 crisis. The risks for clinician burnout seems particularly high now, with a growing concern for long-term emotional and mental consequences beyond the pandemic. 

Providing care to others during the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to fear, depression, feelings of isolation, and ongoing emotional trauma. Nurses providing care to critical patients are putting themselves at risk with multiple exposures, at times without appropriate PPE. Nurses have the same pandemic-related stressors as the general public, but with additional challenges, as they leave their homes each day to care for gravely ill patients. Nurses’ greatest worries include:

  • the fear and uncertainty of a heightened risk of infection
  • worry that they may carry COVID-19 home and infect loved ones
  • a dwindling or already inadequate supply of PPE needed to minimize the risk of infection
  • increasing demands to work longer hours as their colleagues become sick or are quarantined
  • ever-changing recommendations from local leadership, medical and public health experts, and political leaders
  • the inability to provide the level of care they are used to
  • having to make distressing and difficult ethical decisions about which patients get lifesaving care and which do not 

The hard data has been slow in coming, but we know that the mental health impacts of this pandemic are here now. For some, it will remain long after the threat of infection has been reduced. Researchers examined the mental health outcomes of 1,257 healthcare workers attending to patients with COVID-19 in 34 hospitals in China, the epicenter of the virus. The study showed that a large portion of them report experiencing symptoms of depression (50%), anxiety (45%), insomnia (34%), and psychological distress (75.1%). 

Be Aware and Monitor Your Mental Health

Provision 5 of the American Nursing Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses states, “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence and continue personal and professional growth.”

A nurse’s code of ethics and values become compromised when they are overworked and exhausted, when they are asked to work unprotected, when they fear for their own health and safety, and when they cannot practice their trade the way they were trained to. Nurses are natural problem solvers, demonstrating incredible resilience in caring for their patients on a normal day. However, today, they are being tried and tested in ways they have never experienced, and need to recognize that it is normal to feel vulnerable, and that is ok to ask for help when they are feeling excess stress or psychological distress. 

Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events and multiple deaths will impact individuals differently. It is important during the pandemic, and on any given day, to recognize the signs of emotional stress and where to look for support.

Some of the warning signs of excessive stress are:

  • Difficulty problem solving and making decisions
  • Disorientation, confusion or memory issues
  • Misinterpretation of situations and comments
  • Anger, hostility or frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining emotional balance
  • Headaches, tremors, rapid heart rate, palpitations
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares, flashbacks
  • Conflict with others, reduced ability to support peers or endangerment to others

Managing Stress to Avoid Burnout 

Recognizing the signs and addressing them, is more important now than ever before. Taking care of yourself will ensure the best care for your patients. Some tips for self-care, recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are below:

  • Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
  • Increase your sense of control by keeping a consistent routine daily. When possible, get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals, and take breaks during shifts to stretch, rest and check in with supportive colleagues, friends, and family.
  • When away from work, get outdoors for fresh air while staying active or relaxing and spending time with family.
  • Engage in mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Communicate with co-workers, supervisors, and other nurses about job stress. Talk openly about how the pandemic is affecting your work. Identify factors that cause stress and look for solutions 
  • Recognize that you are performing a crucial role in fighting this pandemic and that you are doing the best you can with the available resources.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with mental health. If symptoms affect your ability to provide care to your patients or family, or if you are feeling overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, depression, or hopelessness, seek help from a trained mental health professional.

Related:
Managing Sleep Deprivation During Crisis
Quarantine Pains: Staying Active During Self-Isolation

If you or someone you know needs help in finding mental health or substance abuse support in your area, go to SAMHSA, call the Disaster Distress Hotline (1-800-985-5990), or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

The Future and the Need for Governance: COVID-19 has not only exposed racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities, but it has revealed a health care system that is ill-equipped to care for its citizens and is failing to protect its health care workers. 

Healthcare organizations will need to illustrate a higher level of commitment to support all frontline workers to ensure best practices can be followed in the future. The assurance of adequate levels of PPE to do their jobs safely; eliminating redundant administrative duties; avoiding excessive hours worked; hazard pay and providing anonymous mental health advocacy are just the beginning of a system in need of a tremendous overhaul to protect our valuable healthcare workers.


stronger-together-reimagining-community-amid-covid-19-1200x800.jpg

May 14, 2020 Coronavirus

As we make our way through the 9th week of Massachusetts’ stay-at-home advisory, state and local officials discuss stages of a soft openingof different agencies and businesses, and when it will be safe to do so. In the meantime, communities continue to hunker down and adjust to what is now our new normal.

While social distancing is necessary to control the spread of the virus, we have seen inspiring solidarity in communities practicing social sharing, social embracing, and social connections, all while physical distancing. The resilience of our communities has shone in what has been the most horrific of times. 

Grassroots groups are self-organizing to provide meals and assistance for seniors and others who are unable to leave their homes. Mini pantries are springing up on lawns supporting neighbors in need of food and neighbors wanting to give. Chalk art on sidewalks in neighborhoods, offer messages of hope.

Celebrity musicians, chefs, sports figures and actors are using their platforms on a national level to spread awareness, feed the hungry, to entertain, and raise funds to support the medical community and those impacted by the coronavirus. During this unprecedented time, it is essential to work on a smaller scale and support our local communities, residents, and businesses. 

Fostering solidarity by small acts of kindness, sharing skills, volunteerism, and supporting small businesses are ways we can help our communities. 

Volunteer for organizations providing critical services

Due to health and safety concerns, many volunteers who are at higher risk due to age or medical conditions, have had to restrict commitments to nonprofits who provide critical services. As COVID-19 continues to spread, food inequities continue to rise. If you can fill an important gap in the Massachusetts area, food banks could use your help.

Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB): GBFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and is amongst the largest food banks in the country. Last year they provided 68.5 million pounds of nutritious food to people in need in Eastern Massachusetts, and they maintain a goal of providing three meals a day to each food insecure individual in this area. Their volunteers play a critical role in this mission, which is even more crucial now during the COVID-19 crisis.

Seniors are the fastest-growing food insecure population in Eastern Massachusetts. One in five older adults struggle with hunger, and many face additional challenges such as decreased mobility, rising healthcare costs, or are on a fixed income. The Greater Boston Food Bank helps ensure this senior population has access to the nutritious meals they need to stay healthy through their Brown Bag and Community Supplemental Food Programs.

Related:
Surviving The Economic Impact of COVID-19
Senior Isolation During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Volunteers are needed to support the Brown Bag and the CSFP, both of which are high need/critical projects today. The GBFB values the health of the community and follows the CDC, local, and state public health guidelines. Volunteers are provided with disposable gloves and masks, and shifts are no larger than ten people. As the demand for food continues to rise, the services provided by the GBFB are even more essential. Consider supporting your community by either donating or volunteering today.

Support Small Businesses

There are nearly 49 million essential workers, more than 30 million unemployed, and an estimated 16 million Americans who have been working from home. As restrictions are slowly lifted, some workers will return to offices, some will continue to telecommute, and many unemployed will find they no longer have a job to go back to. Perhaps some of the hardest hit will be small business owners. 

Specialty shops, restaurants, bars, florists, mom and pop businesses, and seasonal businesses who rely on tourism, face a severe economic risk. Some predictions suggest that as many as 75% of them may not survive the current crisis. This kind of loss will not only be felt by the owners and the staff they employ but by the cities and communities they helped define.

It has never been more critical than it is now to support your favorite local restaurant, hairdresser, nail salon, or independent brand. Below are a few examples of ways you can help your small community businesses:

Order delivery from independent restaurants: Although restaurants can no longer offer dine-in services, most do offer delivery service or curbside pick-up. As we have been advised to stay at home, there has never been a better excuse to order takeout. If possible, try to avoid contracted delivery services, as the restaurant incurs a fee. And, remember those who relied on tips before the pandemic will appreciate a generous tip even more at this time.

Purchase gift cards for regular services: You may have a relationship with a hairdresser, manicurist, esthetician, or holistic healthcare provider. Show an act of kindness and support by purchasing gift certificates to be used at a future date. This will help the revenue stream now when it is desperately needed. 

Buy locally sourced produce and groceries: Rather than shopping in the supermarket chains, consider patronizing small local grocers, butchers, bakeries and bagel shops. You will find most open for business offering curbside pick-up. If you do shop in the large chain markets, look for fresh produce and other products locally sourced and sold at the market. 

Shop small online: Don’t forget that many small businesses are accessible online. Whether you need a book, office supplies, occasional gift, or masks (which will be a staple in our wardrobes), head to personal websites or Etsy rather than the big box retail chains. Unique and handcrafted items from small local businesses often make the best gifts.

The strength of the nation is built on the strength of individual communities. The coronavirus has impacted every person, but our station in life will influence our experience. Some will suffer much more than others and will need the support of our friends and neighbors. “Boston Strong” values respect, inclusivity, patience, integrity, and joy…… with these values, we will triumph over tragedy!


Sleep-deprivation-during-crisis-1200x750.jpg

We are sleepless in Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark, and Boston… Americans across the country are adjusting to the societal changes brought on by the novel coronavirus. As the death toll and unemployment rates continue to climb, and the uncertainty of when life outside will resume, fear and anxiety are causing poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation for many.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50 million Americans were already suffering from over 80 different types of sleep disorders, and another 20 to 30 million said they experience intermittent sleep problems. As the lines between work, child care, and home have become blurred, the pandemic presents a host of new challenges for people who already experience sleep problems – even for those who previously had none. 

The Coronavirus As A Sleep Inhibitor

Maintaining a daily routine is paramount to our overall well-being. Consistency in our daily activities, such as wake-up times, commuting schedules, regular work hours, designated exercise time, and bedtimes, served as “anchors” to our underlying daily rhythms. However, the coronavirus outbreak changed our daily lives and routines overnight. Without a regular schedule, that absence of consistency in conjunction with the ever-changing pandemic landscape, we find ourselves ruminating in the dark over all of the stressors of the day. 

Sleep impairment, as a result of too many sleepless nights, can aggravate mental and physical health issues. Beyond general irritability and the inability to focus, chronic insomnia impacts a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Insomnia has also been linked to an increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A lack of sleep can exacerbate these health problems.

Related:
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

Most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of optimal sleep a night, which helps regulate mood, improves brain function, and increases energy and overall production during the day. Ample rest also supports the immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people fighting a virus. Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, with the average time clocking in at less than seven hours, according to The National Institutes of Health.

How Do You Know If You Are Sleep Deprived?

If you are getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night, you are probably sleep-deprived. Some people are more resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation, like older adults, while others, like children and young adults, are more vulnerable. Occasional sleep interruptions are typical; however, excessive missed hours can lead to daytime sleepiness, poor job performance, emotional difficulties, and increased anxiety.

Some signs include:

  • Yawning
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty learning new concepts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Increased appetite

How You Can Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Sleep is a critical biological process and has essential benefits to both physical and mental health. Sleep is vital for all of us all of the time, but particularly now as we are faced with a pandemic. To nip insomnia in the bud, below are a few suggestions to help achieve a better night’s sleep:

1. Establish a regular sleep routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night with the goal of at least 7 hours per night. Your body’s internal clock will eventually adjust, optimizing quality sleep. You may be tempted to sleep in on the weekends, but consistency is the name of the game.

2. Limit screen time at night. Avoid computers, cellphones, tablets, and tv at least an hour before bed. The blue light and light from the television are stimulants and suppress melatonin necessary for sleep. Avoid excessive news consumption, particularly at night. Pandemic updates will most likely increase levels of stress, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

3. Get regular exercise. While the crisis has limited our options for physical activity, there are many ways you can stay moving. People who exercise regularly do experience better quality sleep and fall asleep faster. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day supports the biological process in the brain that contributes to higher quality sleep. Exercise does speed up metabolism, elevates body temperature, and increases cortisol levels, so try not to exercise too close to bedtime.

4. Get some vitamin D. Exposure to light plays a crucial role in how our bodies regulate sleep. Spending time outside in natural light, especially in the morning, has a positive effect on our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep/wake cycle, is a 24-hour internal clock that helps our brain cycle between sleepiness and alertness. Keep curtains and blinds open as much as possible, move your desk close to a window and take breaks outside for some sunlight and fresh air.

5. Food for thought. Eating a healthy diet plays a role in how well you sleep. Avoid stimulating foods and drinks such as caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and refined carbs. These can trigger wakefulness during the night. Also, avoid heavy or spicy meals late at night as they often result in stomach upset or heartburn—limit fluids close to bedtime to reduce late-night trips to the bathroom.

6. Practice a bedtime routine to calm your mind. For most of us, our brains are highly or overstimulated most of the day. Taking steps to manage overall stress levels can make it easier to wind down before bed. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindful meditation, taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music will quiet an overactive brain.

7. Improve your sleep environment. Sometimes even small changes to your sleep environment can make a big difference in the quality of sleep. Make the room as dark as possible as too much light signals the brain to stay awake. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room with a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees. Try a diffuser with a favorite scent like soothing lavender, which can decrease your heart rate and lower blood pressure helping to induce sleep. And, working from home does not mean working from bed. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping, and you know.

The novel coronavirus news changes rapidly, and the times are uncertain. It’s essential to pay attention to self-care and emotional well-being. If you feel your sleep problems are worsening or that the steps taken to improve sleep are ineffective, it is vital to seek the advice of a medical professional.


coronavirus-financial-crisis-1200x800.jpg

COVID-19 has quickly become an economic crisis. Many economists agree that we are headed into a recession if we haven’t gotten there already. America has weathered economic downturns in the past, and they are relatively common, with eleven taking place between 1945 and 2009. Despite the fear they induce, they are considered a “normal” exercise in the expansion and contraction of economic cycles. 

However, unlike any other downturn, this one is unique in that it is a result of a virus and the rapid speed at which it has gripped the country. For the sake of public health, businesses large and small have been shuttered for the unforeseeable future. Human suffering from illness and death as a result of the coronavirus has been exacerbated by the staggering number of jobs lost and loss of income.

The abrupt shutdown of economic activity induced by the coronavirus was underscored by 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits, representing 16.2% of the labor force since mid-March. The financial implications are apparent, but the long term effects on our physical and mental health remain to be seen. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is warning that the economic fallout could have “persistent negative effects.” It says, hundreds of thousands of people could develop chronic and mental health problems as a result of financial concerns.  

Addressing Coronavirus Financial Concerns

Navigating your finances is difficult in the best of times. With May 1st fast approaching, monthly bills will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. For people who are no longer earning a regular paycheck and are facing financial hardship, fear of losing a home or calls from creditors can cause a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety.

Related:
How To Help With Aging Parents’ Finances

Because of the unique nature of the current recession, forced by government-imposed shutdowns, more assistive programs have been put in place to help support those in need: 

Unemployment:

If you have lost your job or your hours have been reduced through no fault of your own, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Despite the high number of claims, you are encouraged to apply. If you have never filed for unemployment, there is no longer a physical office you must go to. Registering online is your best bet. If you reside in Massachusetts, go to this website.

Disability Insurance (DI):

If you are unable to go to work because you were exposed to COVID-19, you can file a Disability Claim (DI). Disability Claims are a short term benefit for people who have a full or partial loss of wages due to non-work related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Applications and terms of eligibility (certified by a medical professional) can be found here.

Paid Family Leave (PFL):

If you are unable to go to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member from COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a PFL claim. To do so, go to this site.

Federal Unemployment Assistance:

Due to the loss of insurance formerly provided by an employer, individual states have been permitted to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19.

For unemployment insurance information go here.

Renters:

To ease the burden for renters, many housing providers across the country are offering flexibility in a variety of forms, including rent deferment, payment plans, and more. Contact your landlord to discuss options if you are facing financial hardship due to the virus. Many states have imposed moratoriums suspending evictions and foreclosures until the end of April, and the CARES act puts a 120-day eviction moratorium in place nationally for residents in properties that are part of a government program or that have a federally backed mortgage loan. 

Tax Returns:

The US Treasury Department has pushed back tax filing and tax payment deadlines to July 15th. 

Bank and Credit Card Relief:

Financial hardship programs have been adopted by several institutions like American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover, and more, providing relief to customers. This form of assistance could potentially be in the form of waived fees, deferred or lower payments, lowered interest rates, increased credit lines, and deferred loan payments. If you need assistance, call a trained customer service representative to discuss possible assistance opportunities.

Student Loans:

Federal student loans can be deferred for 60 days with no penalty. The forbearance period began March 13th and will last at least 60 days, according to the Department of Education. Borrowers wishing to take advantage of the deferral should contact their loan servicer.

Balancing Mental, Physical and Financial Health

Worries and anxiety can be overwhelming as we try to adjust to this new normal of living during a pandemic. Staying informed through reliable sources, utilizing community and federal assistance, and healthy stay-at-home tips below are the best ways to ride out this storm.

Be mindful of your health and mental wellness:

  • Get enough sleep. Try to maintain a regular schedule, even if working at home is new.
  • Participate in regular physical activity. While gyms are closed, a walk in the park or neighborhood at the appropriate distance does a body good.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Drink caffeine and alcohol in moderation as they can trigger anxiety and interrupt sleep.
  • Do something for someone else. Having a purpose like helping a neighbor in need will support mental health.
  • Set priorities. Set realistic daily goals and give yourself credit when you have achieved them. Recognize that some days will be better than others.

Americans and the economy are financially vulnerable due to coronavirus. At this point, there is significant uncertainty regarding how prolonged and how severe this economic downturn will be.

The economic impact of the coronavirus is affecting us all, and financial wellness is essential. But physical and emotional health should always be a priority.

Related:
Quarantine Pains: Staying Active During Self-Isolation
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

We have been advised by medical professionals to contact our primary care physician if we are suffering from any of the major systems of the coronavirus. It is equally important to seek the advice of a trained medical professional if you or a loved one is suffering from emotional stress during this challenging time. 

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety and depression will go away on their own could lead to worsening symptoms. To get help, you may want to reach out to a friend, loved one, or clergy member in your faith community. Your primary health care provider should be able to refer you to a mental health professional as well. There are also organizations such as The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance. 

Stay safe, Stay healthy, and remember you are not alone in this challenging time!


Staying-Active-During-Quarantine-1200x800.jpg

Sore back? Achy knees? Tight in places you have never been tight before? Strange, isn’t it? Considering we have been in quarantine for just over a month, which means we are not really doing a whole lot to cause these pains. Or so we think. Have you been staying active? Believe it or not, being in a sedentary environment such as we are causes strain on even the most habitually desk- or couch-bound person.

With the closure of non-essential businesses, we kissed our access to our beloved gyms, workout classes, and activities goodbye. And with stay-at-home orders across the United States (and New England weather that is utterly confusing), our opportunities to get out and moving on our own are quite limited. But our bodies need movement to remain functional. So, even if you aren’t someone who exercises regularly, the simple act of commuting to work or your daily activities helped keep your muscles loose and your joints nimble. Now what?

a senior woman holding her wrist in pain

Plus, the added stress and anxiety that comes with quarantine forces our bodies into positions that reflect how we are feeling: shoulders turn inward, back folds forward, head hangs low. The perfect equation for discomfort. We are all feeling new or pronounced aches and pains due to the pandemic. However, while self-isolation is rough on all our bodies, it is particularly detrimental to the physical health of our senior loved ones who may not be as active as they used to be.

Staying Active: Easy Ways to Get Moving During Quarantine:

The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of work to start feeling better. In fact, simply being more mindful of how you carry yourself, and making a point to move just a little more, can make all the difference. Here are some easy ways your senior loved ones can relieve themselves of pain during self-isolation.

Walk Around the Neighborhood

Going out for a walk is not against the rules… yet! Walking is immediately accessible for most and can be done just about anywhere. If you are used to going to work or a daytime activity, you may not realize just how often you were on your feet; now, being homebound, you don’t have to go very far to get what you need!

a middle aged couple staying active by walking their dog down the street

Taking a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood is an excellent way to stretch your legs and get your blood flowing. If you are lucky enough to live near a trail, even better! Walking is low-impact and easy on the joints. In fact, studies have found that walking may protect against arthritis, and can help reduce arthritis-related pains. The fresh air will also work wonders for your mental health during this difficult time.

Related:
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

Practice Tai Chi

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that can be easily practiced at home. The exercise combines slow movements, meditation, and deep breathing, with the intent of stimulating vital energy, or “chi.” The ancient tradition has become a popular exercise among older adults in the Western world, largely due to its accessibility: it is another low impact exercise, making it easy on the muscles, joints, and tendons, it can be performed anywhere, and it requires no equipment.

a senior woman staying active by practicing tai chi

Some benefits of tai chi include:

  • Improved balance, which decreases the risk of falls
  • Increased flexibility and stability in the ankles
  • Boosted core strength, which reduces back pain and aids stability
  • Strengthened muscles in the legs
  • Improved cognitive function and memory
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Increased strength for people suffering from chronic illness, such as heart disease and cancer

Considering the nature of being in self-isolation, and the increased risk of feeling lonely during this difficult time, the mental and emotional advantages of tai chi are of particular importance. If you are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, give it a try in your backyard or living room. Due to the inability to find an instructor at this time, the next best way to learn is by watching online videos for beginners, of which there are plenty!

Take Frequent Breaks

It’s easy to get so absorbed in our favorite Netflix shows or the ongoing news related to COVID-19 that we lose track of time (in fact, too much news can trigger coronavirus anxiety). What was meant to be an hour indulgence has turned into several hours of being inactive, which is not doing our bodies any favors.

a middle aged couple staying active by dancing in their backyard

Treat your day like you would if you were not stuck at home; take breaks every hour or so, whether to use the restroom, dance, water plants, make a phone call, or simply take a lap around your house. Exercise devices like FitBits have features that remind users to “get up and move!” at the top of every hour, which is helpful if you are prone to forgetfulness.

Yoga & Stretching

Yoga has long been promoted as highly beneficial for older adults who struggle with osteoarthritis, imbalance, pain, and other physical limitations. Self-guided stretching is an easy way to promote flexibility, improve range of motion and mobility, and stave off joint deterioration. Holding a certain position for too long can damage tissue, cause muscle tightness, and promote pain in your joints.

two seniors sitting on exercise balls and stretching

And, considering how sedentary we are during quarantine, it should come as no surprise that you’re experiencing pains that you may not be used to:

  • Neck and Shoulder Pain: If you are working from home, you are likely sitting in a non-ergonomic chair and hunching over your laptop or phone for hours on end. Tilting your head and neck for an extended period can create a lot of strain, which can make its way down your back. Also, if you are carrying coronavirus anxiety, this can quickly translate to tension in your neck and shoulders.
  • Upper Back Pain: This can also be a cause of hunching over at your at-home workstation for too long. Your upper back and shoulder blades will quickly fatigue when your elbows aren’t at your sides for an extended period of time.
  • Hip Pain: This may be a result of sitting a lot. When you are constantly bending at the waist, you are shortening your hip flexors, and thus, making them tight.
  • Lower Back Pain: This is also a case of sitting too long or leaning forward excessively.

Yoga is ageless and adaptable, working with all body types, speeds, and abilities. Staying active is especially important for seniors. We recommend that seniors spend at least five minutes stretching a day, even if they aren’t experiencing muscle tightness.

While physical activity is essential in your overall health, don’t forget the importance of eating smart for brain and hearth health! Your diet is just as important as your exercise routine during this trying time. Also, be sure to discuss the best forms of exercise for your senior with a physician before getting started.


Multigenerational-Households-Face-Challenges-In-The-Time-Of-COVID-19-1200x800.jpg

April 22, 2020 Coronavirus

Multigenerational households face unique challenges as they learn to manage the new social distancing guidelines issued by the government. Despite the numerous financial and emotional benefits that come with living together, COVID-19 has prompted families living with members of the older generation to take additional precautions to guard against the risks that come with exposure.

As we enter the second month living in a state of emergency, the novel Coronavirus persists, waging war on millions of Americans and the networks we rely on. Many families across the country have taken to their homes to work remotely, homeschool their children, and, ideally, leave home only for essential errands like grocery shopping.

Home for many Americans means a nuclear family, one generation under one roof. In contrast to the last few thousand years of history, when several generations lived together, the previous century saw a movement toward single-family units, which has been considered the norm. However, in 2016 the US saw an upward trend in multigenerational living. A study done by The Pew Research Center, saw a record 64 million Americans, or 20% of the population, living in a multigenerational household.

Driven by economic, social, or cultural reasons, more and more families are opting to live together with several generations in the same home. Multigenerational families are those consisting of more than two generations living under one roof. Many researchers also include a grandparent with at least one other generation. 

Pre-COVID-19: Benefits of Living in a Multigenerational Household

  • Living in a joint household can provide financial benefits. Families can better share expenses if there are more contributors to the household income.
  • Having three generations in one dwelling allows family members to enjoy more quality time together. Senior citizens who often suffer from loneliness have more social interactions with their children and their grandchildren.
  • Children benefit from having two or more adults to supervise them, primarily when parents work outside of the home.
  • Research suggests, some children, particularly teens and children of divorced parents, have fewer behavioral and emotional problems when grandparents are involved in their lives.

When the President of the United States declared a National Emergency on March 13th, the novel coronavirus began to change the lives of all Americans in every type of home across the United States. Unfortunately, some of the hardest-hit families may be those living in multigenerational homes. Hispanic and African American shares in multigenerational households in 2016, was 26% and 27%, respectively. The first week in April revealed that Black and Hispanic communities were being disproportionately affected by the virus. In New York City, considered the epicenter of the virus, Hispanics make up 29 percent of the population, but 34% of COVID-19 deaths, while African Americans make up 22% of the population, but 28% of fatalities. 

Coronavirus Turns Benefits Into Challenges

Each day, “essential” workers risk their own lives when they report to work. Nurses, doctors, firefighters, and police have been called heroes (and they most certainly are). Frontline workers are also grocery store employees, home health care workers, janitors, bus drivers, package handlers, and fast-food workers. “The cost-benefit calculation of whether to keep showing up for work becomes an easier one if you can’t afford to stay home.”

COVID-19 has had an impact on all of our lives. In terms of actual sickness and death, it has had a disproportionate effect on people of color. And people of color are more likely to live in densely packed areas and multigenerational housing situations. 

People who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus are Older adults over the age of 65, people who are immunocompromised, and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease, making them more vulnerable to the virus.

Related:
Senior Isolation During the Coronavirus Pandemic
How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety in this Unprecedented Time

So far, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be a significant concern for children’s health. Studies show that young people are at less risk of a severe illness, but as invisible carriers, they may be vital in spreading the virus. In the context of adults with children, the concern is more about their exposure to vulnerable adults.

While families across the country are taking precautions to guard against COVID-19, those measures are more pronounced in homes with several generations. Seniors will need to take extra precautions, mainly if someone is unwell.

CDC Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers these recommendations for multigenerational households:

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, doorknobs, and other commonly touched surfaces with common household disinfectants daily.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like phones, bedding, dishes, and toys.
  • Remind everyone to avoid touching their face and cover sneezes and coughs with the inside of their elbow or tissue and then throw the tissue away.
  • Make sure to have access to several weeks of medications and supplies, to minimize leaving home.
  • Have everyone practice proper handwashing.
  • As best as possible, isolate someone who is ill in a separate bedroom and bathroom away from others.

On a similar front…Grandparents have been warned to avoid seeing grandchildren because the asymptomatic infection is common in children, occurring in 10-30 percent of cases. This separation is nearly impossible for older caregivers who are solely responsible for raising their grandchildren. Research has shown that more than one in ten grandparents has the primary responsibility for raising a grandchild, with this care often lasting for a period of several years. 

In Massachusetts, state-specific data shows 35,407 grandparents are householders responsible for raising grandchildren. Of those, 61% are in the workforce, 24.6% have a disability, and 16.4% live in poverty. 

Rates of unemployment, poverty, and parental mental health problems tend to rise during disasters. With now-shuttered schools and after school programs canceled, grandparents and family care providers may struggle to meet basic physical and emotional needs once provided by these institutions.  

These are uncertain times, and people are struggling. Now more than ever, we need to reach out to those who have lost their jobs, to people who may be suffering food insecurity, to caregivers who are unable to access technology, and to isolated seniors.

And for those who are on the frontline, do your best to take care of yourself, stay informed, and stay connected. It is also the time to lean on your community and use available resources. Below are a few links which may help provide some information and support for you and your families:

Stay safe! Stay Healthy!


Manage-Coronavirus-Anxiety-1200x800.jpg

April 17, 2020 Coronavirus

The uncertainty and stress associated with coronavirus anxiety are being felt across the world. While you shouldn’t feel ashamed of feeling anxious during this unprecedented time, one can easily heighten their concerns to inhibiting, life-consuming levels. So, how can you manage your mental health during self-isolation?

News bingeing. Toilet paper wars. Face masks. Compulsive cleaning and sanitizing. The world we live in feels apocalyptic – a scary reality for all, but especially for those who suffer from chronic anxiety and stress. It’s virtually impossible to go about your daily business without mention of the novel coronavirus, whether you are stuck at home on quarantine, or an essential employee doing everything you can to get through another worrisome day at work. Particularly due to the continually evolving and “novel” nature of the virus. If you’re reading this, know that you’re certainly not alone here. In fact, anti-anxiety medication prescriptions are up 34% since mid-February, when the COVID-19 crisis began its rapid spread across the United States.

With more than 2 million cases worldwide, and close to 700,000 in the U.S. alone (as of mid-April 2020), it’s natural to worry that a neighbor or loved one may be affected. It’s also reasonable to feel anxiety from the sheer fact that schools, non-essential businesses, places of worship, and public events have been closed indefinitely. Life, as we know it, has been turned upside down. What will life look like a month from now, a year from now? That question alone is stress-inducing.

5 Ways to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety

It goes without saying that the pandemic and government mandates have taken a massive toll on the health of many Americans. However, it’s not just our physical health that is suffering; it’s mental as well.

If your feelings of coronavirus anxiety have developed into a regular panic, obsessive thoughts or actions, feelings of helplessness, or uncontrollable fear, there are many strategies you can adopt to find a sense of calm during this trying time.

1. Follow the Coronavirus Facts

First and foremost, tune out the noise. The fastest way to find yourself in a pit of overwhelm is to take every bit of “news” to heart. And this includes what your friends and family say. While it’s necessary to stay informed as we learn more about how this virus works, keep in mind that there is a bevy of stressors and misinformation being spread on TV and the internet – inaccurate statistics, false reporting, and a direct disregard to what health authorities recommend. Sensationalist media outlets and social media are feeding the frenzy rather than helping to calm it.

Instead, focus only on credible sources of medical information and recommendations. Tune into Governor briefings to stay privy to the status of the virus in your community. Follow the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for rolling updates and guidance on COVID-19.

2. Don’t Overdose on News – Unplug

Limit how much news you consume each day rather than monitoring 24/7 because there is a massive difference between staying informed and obsessing. Too much news, especially from the likes of social media, will only exacerbate your anxiety rather than help it.

Try only checking in for morning updates, and, if you must, tuning into the evening briefings. When the news begins to feel ad nauseam, take a step back, and focus on your daily tasks as you would if this wasn’t happening.

3. Focus on What You Can Control

One of the quintessential pieces of anxiety is the feeling of being out of control in a situation. Unfortunately, being in the middle of a pandemic means that just about everything is out of our control: we can’t put a timeline on how long this will last, we can’t control what other people do (or don’t do), and we can’t dictate who will and won’t get sick. These facts are terrifying, especially for those who find peace in control.

However, we can take practical steps to lessen our own risk of catching the virus, and thus, those living around us. When that lack of command leaves you feeling vulnerable and focusing on everything that could go wrong, take note of what you can manage, such as:

  • Keeping 6+ feet of distance between yourself and others
  • Washing your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer regularly
  • Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, items, and doorknobs/handles in your home
  • Staying home unless absolutely necessary
  • Checking on loved ones – especially seniors who may be experiencing stress with aging
  • Avoiding non-essential travel
  • Taking care of your health and treating any presumed symptoms
  • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
  • Wearing a face mask on essential outings/errands
  • Following all health recommendations as given by your local government

4. Get Active: Mind & Body

It should come as no surprise that physical health feeds mental health. Exercise and meditation have long been recommended as holistic approaches to stress management, particularly if they were once part of your regular routine. While you’re stuck in isolation, it’s crucial that you remain as active as possible to alleviate the onset of anxiety.

Related:
Senior Isolation During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Stress and Aging: Recognizing & Managing Your Senior’s Symptoms

Depending on your local restrictions, consider getting out in nature, going on a bike ride or a walk, or practicing meditation in an open space. If you can’t go outside, stretch or practice yoga at home, and use the resources at your disposal to do moderate movements that will keep your body agile (even if that means using a can of beans as a weight!). Exercise keeps the mind sharp and is an obvious distraction from the day-to-day developments related to the novel coronavirus. Muscle relaxation exercises and conscious breathing patterns are also useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Regulated breathing has been used to fight strain and quiet the mind since ancient times, healing chronic stress, soothing fight-or-flight mode, and many types of trauma.

5. Stay Connected to Family and Friends

Social and physical distancing is not easy, especially if you are extroverted and used to being around people. But being under a stay-at-home order doesn’t mean you have to isolate completely. Isolation can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression, so those with pre-existing disorders are at higher risk of poor mental health during the pandemic.

While you may not be able to be with your friends and family members physically, you can still talk to them virtually. Fortunately, we live in a digitally-forward world that allows us to stay connected using tools such as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts. Rather than focusing your conversations on our new “normal,” play games, share stories and enjoy each other’s company as you normally would. This is especially important if you have senior loved ones whose loneliness may be intensified during isolation. Be creative to stay connected.

If you are feeling the adverse mental effects of the novel coronavirus and think you could benefit from speaking to a mental health specialist, please contact your healthcare provider, or use these resources as recommended by the CDC:


senior-isolations-during-coronavirus.jpg

A consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic is forced isolation on seniors who rely on socialization. COVID-19 is exacerbating loneliness, which is dangerous to the health and well-being of older adults. Here are some ways you can understand and alleviate the health risks of senior isolation during this trying time. 

As the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) forces us to practice safe social distancing, our neighborhoods, local communities, and airwaves have been flooded with ever-changing advisories related to the pandemic. Government officials have been scrambling to flatten the curve while addressing urgent medical care needs as well as our nation’s rapid plummet into an economic recession. 

However, little attention has been given to what some medical professionals are calling a social recession” – a fraying of social bonds that continue to unravel the longer we go without human interaction. Social connections help us address the challenges we face as individuals and as a society. So, while many parents are overwhelmed with the new normal of having their children learning from home while they are working from home, the greater concern may fall on their own parents. How can forced isolation affect older adults, especially when they may have already been lonely, to begin with? COVID-19 could very well magnify the health risks of solitude.

The AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect has cautioned that more than 8 million adults aged 50 and older are negatively affected by social isolation and loneliness, a “growing health epidemic” akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

Research has also shown that people who are isolated and have feelings of loneliness are at a higher risk for health conditions such as high blood pressure, cognitive decline, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and depression.  

And this was on a normal day, before COVID-19 swept across the nation, prompting “stay-at-home” directives in most states in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. We now face travel restrictions, and the closure of schools, houses of worship, community centers, and all “non-essential” businesses. We have even been advised to see only the people we live with, keeping us apart from most family and friends.

According to the Centers For Disease Control (as of April 2020), the most vulnerable to the virus are the elderly (people 65 years and older) and people with underlying medical conditions such as:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • A compromised immune system 
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease (undergoing dialysis)
  • Liver disease
  • Severe obesity

So, we must consider the potential negative repercussions of age, the aforementioned medical conditions, and loneliness when combined.

What “Social Distancing” Means for Older Adults

We are all at risk of feeling lonely and isolated during this time of social distancing. However, the people who are at higher risk for severe illness, our elderly population, may bear the brunt of the social separation. 

Self-isolation for many older adults means a sudden disconnection from all social outlets. Family and friends are warned to stay away, or at a distance of six feet, leaving most elders at home alone (with the exception of those requiring private care). Even those residing in senior living residences and nursing homes are in forced isolation, with the closure of communal dining rooms, halted group activities, and visitor restrictions.

The isolation needed to slow the rate of the virus could incite dire health consequences for older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions. The unfortunate paradox of doing what is necessary to keep our loved ones safe will ultimately require action to mitigate mental and physical consequences.

How We Can Help With Senior Isolation

Social and physical distancing does not have to mean social disengagement. Here are some easy ways you can help ease your loved one into the new normal:

  • Use technology to stay connected: There are many online options to facilitate “togetherness” with family and friends. Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and Facebook are free and easy ways to get that much-needed “face-time.” Most older adults own a smartphone, desktop computer, or laptop where virtual exercise classes, worship services, books, and games are readily available. Logging into some of these platforms may not be intuitive for some seniors, but a quick Zoom call with a grandchild or a tech-savvy family member will give them the tutorial they need to access these useful tools. Remember, patience is a virtue. And don’t forget the good old fashioned phone call. Designate time to talk, and don’t rush the conversation. With so many working from home, allotting some time in your weekly routine to spend virtual time with a lonely neighbor or loved one will go a long way.
  • Send mail: Encourage friends and family to write cards and letters. Send a care package with favorite snacks, playing cards, puzzles, essential household products, and family photos. A trip to the mailbox will give your loved one a chance to stretch their legs and get some fresh air. Physical correspondence will serve as a reminder that they are in your thoughts.
  • Offer to do necessary errands: Those at risk for suffering the severest consequences from exposure to COVID-19 will be unable to retrieve daily necessities such as groceries and medications. Offer to grocery shop for those in need, and drop it off at their door. Be sure to wave and say hello from the appropriate distance before you go.
  • Start a book or movie club: We all need to know what is going on in the world during this troubling time, but spending too much time watching “breaking news” concerning the virus can cause additional anxiety and stress. Recommend family and friends select a book of the week, and plan a video conference to discuss it in an improvised book club. If your loved one is not a reader, send the gift of a Netflix membership, and have virtual movie nights. 

COVID-19: The New Normal

Social solidarity has come to life as the Coronavirus has taken hold of the nation. We have seen heartfelt moments of families visiting loved ones through windows of nursing homes, anniversary signs, birthday songs, and love letters displayed from a distance. If our new reality means “drive-by” hellos and car parades for birthdays, then this is what we shall do to maintain some sort of normalcy.

Human beings are social animals instinctively, and the Coronavirus has threatened those connections. No one knows how long this social isolation will go on. But we do know that people’s well-being will certainly take a hit during these uncertain times. Because the negative effects of social isolation on mental health are vast, it’s crucial that we check in with our loved ones. As we continue to face the biggest challenge of our lives, let’s make it a priority to reach out to our senior neighbors and family members who may be having a difficult time dealing with the stress and anxiety that social isolation inflicts. 


LCG Boston_Veritcal Logo

Follow Along!

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Copyright by LCG Boston © 2020. All rights reserved.