The impact of isolation on elderly care homes
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused untold fear and suffering for older adults across the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), older adults in aged care homes are at a higher risk of the infection, living in an enclosed environment with others. The pandemic has indeed brought unprecedented challenges and disproportionate threat onto older adults’ lives, relationships, and well-being.
In all countries affected by Covid-19, the message that is being sent by government officials and medical experts is to “stay at home” and “isolate in place”. The isolation is especially difficult for people living in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Most facilities have asked that no one enter the facilities unless they work there because there is a high risk that Covid-19 would spread rapidly once it is introduced.
Brunch spoke to a few elderly care centres for their input on how the residents have been coping.
‘We encourage residents to stay social virtually’ – Sahana Udaya Elders’ Home
The warden at the Sahana Udaya Elders Home stated that the residents have shown no particular change in emotions since the pandemic, but also hypothesised that this may be due to the fact that some elders are unable to grasp the concept of this virus. Talking about how they have been ensuring the safety of their residents, she explained that group activities have been cancelled and residents are eating in their rooms, as all communal dining has been stopped. Although prohibiting group activities will decrease the risk of spreading the Covid-19 infection in nursing homes, it significantly increases the isolation and resulting loneliness of residents. Sahana Udaya Elders’ Home takes good care to ensure that their patients are not feeling lonely. “We encourage them to call their friends and family via video calls and maybe even share a virtual meal with them so they don’t feel as isolated. They seem to be coping well with the events of last year.” Even though it seems to have not had an effect on the residents at this home, it is only likely that this will have long-term impacts on their mental health.
‘The inmates live in fear’ – Village 60 plus
Speaking to Sonny Subramaniam of Village 60 Plus elders’ home, he explained to us that since the pandemic began, the senior citizens have been living in constant fear. Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers indicated that the aged population should be shielded from the virus, as they pose a higher risk of developing a more severe form of the disease, which could eventually lead to increased mortality. So, it is no surprise that these elderly people are rightfully worried about their health.
Subramaniam reassured us that they have taken all the precautions when it comes to ensuring their safety. At this time, they are not allowed to have visitors, but Subramaniam added that occasionally a family member or close associate will have to visit the home, with medicine packed for the month. “We have them leave the parcels with security, where it is sanitised thoroughly and only then is it given to the elderly,” Subramaniam stated. He also informed us that the people’s fear has significantly reduced upon getting both doses of the vaccine recently. “Only myself is yet to receive the second dose, but everyone else in the building is now protected from the virus and have received both doses of the vaccine.”
‘Family members are concerned for the residents’ – Aloka Elders’ Home
Rathnaweera, the warden at Aloka Elders’ Home also strictly prohibits visits from outside. “We keep the gate locked at all times. We never know who would have the virus and who doesn’t,” she added.
She also informed us that because family and friends aren’t allowed to visit the care centre, they constantly call the front desk to enquire if their respective family member has eaten adequately or remembered to take their medicine on time. She noted her only concern is that these family members of the residents that have cognitive impairments or dementia are afraid that the less they get to see them, the more likely they are to forget them. “Many family members of these residents used to visit often, sometimes every day, bring food, and help the residents with eating and drinking. If they cannot visit, they may be afraid that the resident will no longer recognise them.” It is a valid concern, and one that they will have to risk in order to uphold the safety of those that they love and care for.