MANNING — Manning Regional Healthcare Center recognizes that COVID-19 is not only affecting individuals physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Americans of all ages are experiencing increased social isolation and loneliness in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Institute on Aging, nearly 14 million older adults in the U.S. live alone and are especially vulnerable during this time. Their research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity.
Manning Regional Healthcare Center’s Senior Life Solutions program is encouraging people to engage in meaningful, productive activities to help boost mood and maintain their overall emotional health and well-being.
Janet Brus, RN, Senior Life Solutions program director, said, “It is important to find ways to connect and engage in activities to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. We put together these quick tips to share with our community in hopes they will encourage self-care and support.”
Quick Tips for Older Adults Experiencing Social Isolation
1. Find or keep a sense of purpose. Take up a hobby such as growing an herb garden, crossword puzzles, knitting, or other activities.
2. Age-appropriate workouts can help you not only stay in physical shape but in mental shape as well. Gentle exercises such as walking are suggested. It is always recommended to consult a healthcare professional or primary care physician first.
3. Manage medications. Do you have enough to last you for the next 30-60 days? If you need help managing medications, contact your doctor or a loved one who can help you.
4. Keep a routine that includes consistent sleep/wake cycles. Incorporate talking to family or friends in that routine. Whether it be writing them a letter or calling them on the phone.
5. Get outside! Research shows that safe exposure to the sun is a mood booster. If you can’t physically go outside, try looking at pictures of nature instead.
Quick Tips for Families
1. Stay active and do it together! Walk the family dog, take a bike ride, or a walk together.
2. If your church has temporarily closed, check-in with them to see if they are offering virtual services that your family can attend together from home.
3. If you have kids home at home, make a video (on your smartphone!) and send it to a loved one who lives far away. A fun interactive way to simply say, hello.
Quick Tips for Caregivers
1. Take five to refuel. Make a list of things that help you relax and take two to three breaks throughout the day.
2. Call or write a friend who can lend a sympathetic ear, make you laugh, and remind you that you are not alone.
3. Pursue other interests. Hobbies, sports, crafts, and other pursuits are not frivolous. They help you clear your mind of worry – if only briefly.
How to Care for Yourself
1. Nourish your body. Ensure you are eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
2. Limit exposure to news and social media to reduce anxiety about the negativity in the world
3. Stay connected to your loved ones or a mentor using your phone, or applications like Facetime or Skype to speak to them virtually.
4. Write down your concerns, reminding yourself that you have controlled everything within your power.
Brus added, “Think of self-care like putting on an oxygen mask on an airplane. The flight attendant always instructs travelers to put on their own mask before securing others. You must take care of yourself right now to continue caring for and supporting those around you.”
To schedule a virtual therapy session with Manning Regional’s Senior Life Solutions team, call (712) 655-8262.
If you or a loved one is in need or are feeling depressed or anxious resulting from isolation or stress due to COVID-19, contact MRHC at (712) 655-2072 or the 24/7 SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline (800) 985-5990 which provides year-round crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Additionally, older adults and adults living with disabilities can contact the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line, an accredited crisis line at 800-971-0016.
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.