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Posted On May 14, 2020

What are the Mental Health Risks of the Quarantine on Nursing Home Residents

Nursing homes have a responsibility to care for not only their patient’s physical care, but also their emotional wellbeing. As COVID-19 has forced many nursing home residents into social isolation, they are at higher risk for developing mental health problems, including depression and cognitive decline.

Social Distancing from COVID-19 Causing Loneliness

COVID-19 has caused most nursing homes to limit or completely stop visitors from visiting their loved ones to prevent the spread of infection to this vulnerable population. Therefore, it can be difficult for family members to recognize that their elderly family member is experiencing mental health problems from the stress of loneliness and depression.

For those who are confined to nursing homes, loneliness has been a concept that was not given the proper recognition. Until recently, as the elephant in the room, loneliness of nursing residents cannot be ignored. When healthcare providers do so, they are committing nursing home neglect, as family members do not have the access they would normally have to advocate for their loved ones.

Mental and Physical Health Consequences of Loneliness

The is a difference between being alone and feeling alone. An elderly person quarantined in a nursing home who is cut off from their loved ones and interaction from others can quickly become depressed from feelings of loneliness. This can lead to cognitive decline that cannot be reversed.

Studies have shown that there is a link between loneliness and increased high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, enhanced dementia, and death. When chronic loneliness exists, its stress has a negative effect on the immune system.

Technology Could Be a Way to Deal with Feeling of Loneliness

The elderly may be reluctant to admit they are dealing with loneliness from the stress caused by the current quarantine. While social distancing may trigger fears of being alone, the right intervention can help affected individuals to understand what is happening now is only temporary and that they are not alone in their feelings.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has become an essential tool in keeping loved ones connected with family, friends, and healthcare providers. The use of telehealth has expanded to include not only services for physical health care, but also those for mental health care. In some cases, the use of virtual reality is being tested to take residents into an immersive world that can help alleviate their feelings of loneliness by helping build a sense of community.

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