By: Nancy Carman, Fendrick Morgan ECC
Many of the severe visiting restrictions that were imposed by the State on senior living facilities (assisted living, memory care assisted living, and skilled nursing communities) have now been greatly reduced and families and friends are now (finally!) being allowed to visit in the room/apartment/residence of their senior loved one. While this is definitely good news and relief for lonely elders, families may be in for a surprise when they are able to spend more time with their frail loved ones.
After more than a year of pandemic living, isolation has had a very real effect on the physical and mental health of many senior living residents. The National Academy of Sciences Engineering Medicine published a report in 2020 on social isolation and elders and reported that elders who were socially isolated during the pandemic had a 50% higher risk of developing dementia.
As an Elder Care Coordinator and Geriatric Care Manager, I am seeing first hand and hearing directly from concerned families about the following after-effects of the pandemic:
- Weight loss and clothes not fitting
- Unkept long hair that needs a stylish haircut
- Noticeable forgetfulness and memory decline
- Anxiety about leaving the apartment or room
- Personal residence has not been kept clean and has become cluttered
- Missing clothes, glasses, and personal keepsakes
The following are some actions that family and friends can take:
- Encouraging your loved one to participate in communal dining and group social activities. Realistically expect a gradual emergence into a more “normal” activity schedule. Your loved one may need some coaxing from trusted staff and time to get rid of residual anxiety and fear.
- Ask your loved one’s physician to write a script for Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy to address any balance and strength issues due to many months of a sedentary lifestyle.
- Plan to visit as often as you can to advocate on behalf of your loved one. A number of facilities are having staffing issues and your loved one’s care needs may not be addressed as well as before the pandemic started.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a care conference with nursing and hands-on care staff. As an Elder Care Coordinator, I schedule and participate in an on-site or Zoom-based meeting to address care concerns and implement plans to help your loved one resume a healthier lifestyle.
And, finally, we are here to help. If you have care concerns that you feel are not being adequately addressed, we are happy to help.