Mental Health Challenges in COVID-19 World Make Caregiving Challenging

Read Time: 6:30
Published: Jun 9th, 2021
Mental Health Challenges Make Caregiving Difficult

2020 has been a tough year for almost everyone, thanks to the lockdown imposed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. And, while it was a necessary move - the lockdown and quarantine took a toll on many people physically and psychologically around the globe. This toll was especially true of the elderly. 

Caregiving for those needing help with daily living activities or supervision because of memory loss has become even more challenging for caregivers, families, and the care recipients themselves.

There was a delay in moving people with cognitive decline to memory care homes for seniors because of the risk of COVID-19 infection. With many loved ones being cared for in their home, or the home of an adult child, there is a strong need for families to check up on the mental health of their loved ones, especially those with cognitive decline.

COVID-19 continues to have an impact on older people, and this includes their mental health. Many older people already suffer from depression and anxiety; the COVID-19 virus crisis has made this much worse for some.

Long-term care facilities have a better understanding today of COVID-19 infection risk and have protocols in place to limit the risk to staff, care recipients, and visitors. Yet many loved ones have yet to transition to a facility.

Emotional Outbursts

Seniors are prone to having emotional outbursts because their advancing age brings a lot of fear. People are no longer in the prime of their lives; for some, there is a lack of purpose as they are no longer responsible for their kids and not making solid contributions to a career. On top of that, there is a constant fear of death lingering on their minds. 

Let's not forget - during old age, people tend to lose contact with their friends and family. This sense of isolation can lead to occasional emotional outbursts that intensified due to COVID-19. More and more people were confined to their homes and had to face their deepest fears in isolation.

Change in Day-to-Day Habits

When people were out and about, they had to follow a strict regimen. But the lockdown took that away. Now people no longer had the freedom to go to a gym, indulge in their hobbies, go for a walk, or visit friends and family - activities that made them feel normal and kept them busy. 

The lockdown took away their routines and lifestyle. These changes added significant stress and anxiety as routine is often the thing that keeps any of else sane.

However, this change in routine was particularly difficult for the elderly. Older people tend to follow a regular schedule which typically leads to a happier, healthier life. A regular schedule is beneficial but became disrupted because of COVID-19.

Irritating and Shouting Behavior

Memory issues such as Alzheimer's can lead to problematic behaviors such as shouting and irritation. COVID-19 made that worse as it brought a lot of restrictions and added frustration. 

Things were equally challenging for older people living with their family as it was for those living alone. Family members were also going through the frustration of COVID-19 restrictions, job loss or reductions, and the stress and anxiety of caring for a loved one in their home. 

In some circumstances, the behavior of everyone involved added to the stress and anxiety of the situation. Individuals experiencing personality changes because of dementia have very little filter, and the combination was not good for the care recipient, the caregiver, and the rest of the family. 

This behavior can be particularly difficult to put up when the shouting and irritation from the elderly is unwarranted. Although no one is to blame (as the lockdown worsened things); still the whole thing created a lot of behavioral mess for people to deal with.

Long-term care facilities have staff that are trained to deal with these outbursts, but most family members are not and often take it personally even though their loved one lacks the ability to control their behavior. 

Level Up the Anxiety

The entire world experienced high levels of anxiety and fear during the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. We experienced an ever-present fear of catching the virus, which was compounded by the constant fear of losing the job, health, and livelihood. The 24/7 media increased the problem has escape was impossible.

The overall quality of life took a significant dip. Naturally, due to the surmounting levels of fear, physical and mental anxiety also shot up. Older people experiencing cognitive decline are already at increased risk of developing anxiety; seniors all around the globe encountered an increase of anxiety, depression, and fear.

Best Ways to Improve Mental Health

Your loved one health, dementia, and overall mental health have degraded so much that you have no option but to send them to an assisted living facility, ideally near your home. Facilities have residents that care vaccinated, the staff is vaccinated, and they are now able to maintain the safety of everyone.

If you are caring for them in your home, you can adopt these simple yet incredibly effective techniques to improve their mental health.

Don't Forget to Talk

Old age can be incredibly isolating. People often feel cut off from their family, children, friends, and community. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to lift their spirits is just talking to them. 

But make sure not to do it as a favor. Show genuine interest in whatever they have to say. Spark a conversation. Ask them about their youth and adventures from their younger days. Listen to what they have to say. You will be amazed by how much therapeutic healthy conversations can be.

Do not just talk about the past. Your older family members have a wealth of life experience. Ask their opinion on current political issues, sports, and other current events. 

Look After their Sleep and Resting Schedule

Sleep and rest are two of the healthiest things for mental health. A lack of sleep can lead to irritation and an impaired sense of understanding. Sleep keeps the circadian rhythm in check, and a well-rested mind is more responsive and adaptive to the changing situation. 

Therefore, you must make sure that they are getting adequate amounts of sleep. Also, look after their sleep schedule and make sure it is regular.

Keep an Eye on Eating Habits

Diet and nutrition are closely related to mental health. Make sure they consume fresh, home-cooked meals rich in healthy fats and loaded in nutrients. 

With advancing age, signals in hunger change. It's, therefore, your duty to make sure they eat at the right intervals. Dehydration is another cause of many medical emergencies during old age. So, always ensure hydration.

Play Games That Stimulate the Mind 

Mind games, often used in Alzheimer's care facilities, help develop new brain connections. They are excellent for cognitive and overall brain health. Mind games will keep your elderly sharp as a pin even during old age. They also happen to be a great stressbuster. Plan a board game or some light quizzes. In this way, they will remain both entertained and mentally healthy.

Pets Keep Seniors Active and Engaged

There is nothing quite like the warmth, companionship, and unconditional love of an animal to add a sense of purpose in life. You might be surprised how a cat, or a low-maintenance dog breed could bring amazing levels of happiness for your loved one, which will be helpful to maintain their mental health.

There's no doubt that the virus crisis has been challenging for everyone. The crisis has been particularly challenging for seniors and others with disabilities worldwide. So, whatever contribution you can make to enrich their lives is always a good move for them and yourself.

About the Author

Holly Klamer is a seasoned writer who loves to create content related to aging issues and everything to do with senior living. She is a frequent contributor to many top online publications including Assisted Living Near Me, where she creates content that is specific to assisted living for older adults, as well as SeniorLivingFacilities.net, where she writes about common issues affecting senior citizens and provides senior living advice.

Editor's Note

Being a family caregiver is stressful and physically demanding. The level of anxiety increases over time. Don't place this pressure and stress on those you love—plan for the costs and burdens of aging with affordable Long-Term Care Insurance.

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LTC News Contributor Holly Klamer
Holly Klamer

Contributor Since
December 23rd, 2020

A frequent contributor to many top online publications.

About the Author

A seasoned writer who loves to create content related to aging issues and everything to do with senior living.

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