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The Loneliness Of Being An Elderly Person Living On Their Own During The Pandemic

Posted: December 7, 2020

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For the elderly living alone, the pandemic only brings with it, loneliness, fear of the disease and other mental health issues.

‘Though I realise that I have to be isolated for my own well-being, it is getting harder day by day. I often feel suffocated within these four walls.’

As this global pandemic evolves every day, we are subjected to be on the verge of mental breakdowns. Some might even say that together we are fighting two pandemics in a parallel way, COVID-19 and Mental Health Deterioration.

COVID-19 has three major stressors – social, economic and psychological. Social stressors would include being in quarantine, the overwhelming loneliness, the loss of loved ones, isolation and sometimes domestic violence. The economic ones would be unemployment, loss of property or clients. And the psychological stressors would be depression, fear, anxiety, insomnia, frustration, claustrophobia, and suicidal tendencies.

It’s tough for them due to the loneliness

Some of us are more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, be it physical or psychological. People who are at an added risk to contract the disease are the elderly and those with pre-existing medical problems and weak immune systems. Additionally, these people are prone to be victims of worsening sanity.

‘Quarantine fatigue, loneliness, sadness, inertia, and isolation during the pandemic hit all of us. But it’s especially hard among the elderly and even worse among those with dementia,’ said Florida State University College of Nursing professor and certified traumatologist Sally Karioth.

Dr. Abu Hussain, 82, lives alone the whole day. “My elder son lives away in the United States. I live in Bangladesh with my daughter, who is a doctor. She has to attend the hospital regularly. Besides, I lost my wife very recently. Though I realise that I have to be isolated for my own well-being, it is getting harder day by day. I often feel suffocated within these four walls,”  he says.

But there are positives too!

On another positive note, some of these aged-groups have been identified to be more resilient than others. Some have shown profound patience waiting for a silver lining. They have this light of hope for which they keep saying – “This too shall pass.”

“The elderly as a group is very diverse. Those with more education and resources will come through this social distancing just fine. And those who don’t have that ability, you engage in tech-supported replacements, for example, may feel particularly isolated,” said Dr Ellen Whyte, while referring to the fact that not elderly people will have equal impacts. She is a psychiatrist and the director of geriatric psychiatry outpatient services for UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.

There have been some fruitful ways to reduce the feeling of being miserable for the elderly. These include maintaining regular conversations over phone calls, sending them groceries and medicines and making sure they eat healthily. Emphasising the importance of physical activities and maintaining a proper sleep schedule also helps them.

Their safety and interests need to be prioritised as well

People must prioritise ensuring their safety and responsibility with care so they do not feel like a burden. Interestingly, some have found themselves a new hobby – reading, getting a pet, gardening, or writing a book! However, some of them have given positive responses for being able to connect to their beloved grandchildren over video calls.

Science and research have shown that socialisation improves our overall health and wellbeing. This is why it should be essentially prioritised, particularly in these unprecedented times! Though we are bound to be physically distant, it is possible to socially connect with each other, and especially with the elder members of our society.

A version of this was earlier published here.

Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Anupamaa

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