Gratitude, Entitlement, and Loneliness during the Pandemic

  • Spend more time with your family. Utilize opportunities offered by the pandemic. Before the pandemic, some family members may have been distracted by work and school commitments, but now they may have more time at home and a higher degree of freedom to connect with older loved ones. In the era of social distancing, quality interactions using physical distancing of at least two meters along with the use of personal protective equipment such as masks enable contact with family members. This is vitally helpful to defend against loneliness.
  • Maintain social connections with technology. Along with the telephone, technology has changed the way people interact with each other. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, LINE, and Instagram enable people to stay connected in a variety of ways. Many older adults, however, may not be as familiar with these new technologies, and this style of interaction may not effectively serve their emotional needs. We can help older family members and friends to overcome such technology barriers. Online video chat is easier to use and sufficiently conveys nonverbal cues so that people can feel more engaged. Even without new technology available, communication through phone services is beneficial too. Conversations with a regular schedule through online or phone services with family members and loved ones can be helpful for older adults.
  • Ensure basic needs are met. Family and caregivers should ensure food, medication, and mask accessibility for older adults, especially those who live alone.
  • Structure every single day. To stay confined at home for much of every day is a psychological challenge for many people. When most outdoor activities are not available, it is not easy to maintain a regular daily schedule. However, we can encourage and support engagement with activities deemed pleasurable by the older person with benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Regular scheduling is especially supportive for older people at risk of delirium, which is characterized by a disturbance of circadian rhythm. Television and YouTube channels adapted for older adults with proper physical and mental programs (e.g., exercise programs, mindfulness practice, and music programs) can also be very useful.
  • Maintain physical and mental activities. Exercise has benefits for physical and psychological health (specifically for mood and cognition). There is evidence that regular engagement in mentally challenging and new activities may reduce the risk of dementia. Although we may not be able to exercise together as before, we should maintain physical activities at the individual level. Besides, these personal physical activities can be performed at a group level by setting a common goal, sharing our progress, or creating a friendly competition via social media.
  • Pursue outdoor activities while following the guidance of social distancing. Brief outdoor activities are usually still possible and beneficial to health. One can feel much better because of sunlight exposure and the ability to see other people while still maintaining physical distancing.
  • Manage cognition, emotion, and mood. Loneliness is often associated with negative thoughts (cognitions). Moreover, anxiety and depression may cause social withdrawal which will exacerbate the loneliness and isolation associated with social distancing. Acquiring reliable information about the pandemic helps avoid unnecessary worry and negative rumination. Conscious breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques are helpful for the mind and body and can decrease one’s level of anxiety and depression. Emotional support for family members and friends is especially important during this harsh pandemic period, but one should not hesitate to seek help as well.
  • Pay attention to psychiatric symptoms. The pandemic is quite stressful for every individual, and significant stress can precipitate the occurrence or recurrence of mental disorders in some people, especially vulnerable older people. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance are common, especially when one is under quarantine or self-isolation. Other symptoms include anger, irritability, and compulsive behaviors, such as repeated washing and cleaning. Furthermore, the experiences of social isolation and quarantine may bring back post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms for those previously exposed to other related events such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome epidemics (Hawryluck et al., 2004). Online screening tools and rating scales can help us to understand the magnitude of the impact on our mental health. People with existing psychiatric disorders and their family members should pay special attention to their mental health and follow important tips to prevent the worsening of symptoms. Medical assistance should always be sought, when necessary, particularly in response to the expression of suicidal ideation. Those taking prescribed psychiatric medications should make sure that their supply is adequate, despite the limitations imposed by social distancing and the difficulty in visiting the pharmacy. Government agencies, social service organizations, and healthcare providers should consider offering online psychological services (or at least phone services) to those psychogeriatric patients who need medical advice during the social isolation period.
  • Take special care of older people with dementia and their family caregivers The world and the way people live have significantly been disrupted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes are always stressful and require people to adapt. However, people with dementia have compromised adaptive function, and the pandemic may aggravate negative emotions and invoke behavioral and psychological symptoms. Recognizing that people with dementia may find it difficult to understand and comply with social distancing, caregivers should try to give instructions on hand hygiene, social distancing, and other protective measures in a simple, straightforward, and understandable way. Regular daily schedules and activities should be arranged and individually tailored to the dementia patient’s interests. Family caregivers might be under especially severe levels of stress and feel even more isolated and alone. More detailed information on the unique aspects of the pandemic’s effects on dementia caregiving is available on the Alzheimer’s Disease International website (Alzheimer’s Disease International)

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Salonista Cynthia

Salonista Cynthia

Passionate about art and science, I identify as a poet. Concentric careers made me an entrepreneur. My imagination is where I live!