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Impact Of COVID-19 On Mental Health Of Elderly

COVID-19 has gripped the world beyond geographical boundaries and across all ethnicities. The numbers of confirmed cases of this pandemic is ever increasing with the United States being affected the most with approximately 2.5 million affected and close to 1 million deaths reported. Europe follows the United States with Italy, Spain, and France being most affected; however, the curve has flattened in these countries gradually. COVID-19 affects most in the vulnerable population with people above the age of 60 or having conditions like hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular dysfunction being most at risk.[1,2]

The Coronavirus has been known to clinicians since the 1960s. A common strain of this virus causes flu like symptoms like cough, cold and runny nose. However, in early 2000s a new strain was discovered and the world was introduced to the SARS virus which claimed many lives. In 2012, another strain of the coronavirus came into existence called MERS or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. This also had the same symptoms like SARS but the spread of both these two strains was quite limited.[1,2]

However, the COVID-19 is extremely different from its counterparts in that this virus spreads extremely aggressively. The growth rate of COVID-19 has been so alarming that within no time lakhs have been gripped with this virus all over the world. It has been especially worse in people with premorbid conditions like diabetes and hypertension. COVID-19 has been especially harsh on the elderly population causing severe respiratory distress requiring ventilatory support and in many cases casualties.[1,2]

Aside from the disease itself, the overall mental health of the patient due to quarantine and isolation also gets affected.[1,2] This is what has been discussed in the article below which focuses on how the elderly have had the brunt of COVID-19.

Impact Of COVID-19 On Mental Health Of Elderly

It is for everyone to see that COVID-19 impacts the elderly population the most who due to age have premorbid conditions like compromised immunity along with disorders like hypertension and diabetes. The older adults also have increased likelihood of having cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. These comorbidities are primarily responsible for loss of life due to COVID-19. The data released by the WHO states that about 95% of deaths due to COVID-19 have been of people above the age of 60, of which 50% people were above the age of 80. It has also been observed that elderly people suffering from COVID-19 tend to go into depression due to the disease itself and the basic requirement of treatment which is mandatory isolation and quarantine.[2]

This is especially seen in people who are already living in assisted living facilities like daycare center. With already living a life without their near and dear ones, these people get further affected when they are kept in isolation away from their friends from the facility. This isolation is all the more necessary in caregiving facilities as studies reflect that they are more vulnerable to get the infection. This has been substantiated by the Center for Disease Control in the United States stating that not only the patients but even the caregivers are at equal risk for getting COVID-19.[2]

According to the New York Times, approximately 28,000 older adults have succumbed to the COVID-19 in caregiving facilities, especially for older adults. Another observation made by the New York Times is one third of the fatalities caused by COVID-19 in the United States occur in caregiving facilities housing the elderly. The scenario is the same across the world when it comes to COVID-19 fatalities occurring in caregiving facilities. Studies suggest that 50% of COVID-19 fatalities in Belgium have occurred in caregiving facilities, with 60% in Canada, 50% in France, close to 70% in Spain and most of the caregivers are asymptomatic.[2]

Coming to the mental aspect of elderly people with COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control data states that about 50% of people with this infection have various forms of dementia including Alzheimer. This makes it very difficult to contain the virus. This is because people with cognitive impairment may not even be able to understand the seriousness of the infection and may not follow the safety precautions like social distancing or hygienic practices. Additionally, such people may feel that if they go for treatment then they may not receive the best medical attention and resources. This has made clinicians worry as the infection is still spreading and people having cognitive impairment may not be getting the treatment required.[2]

Some studies have suggested that the discrimination that the elderly population faces from some of their own also contributes to the mental aspect of such people especially when they get affected with a pandemic like COVID-19. This has been proved in places where people of old age have been taken care of and precautions have been taken to prevent them from getting the infection. Additionally, in countries like the United States where medical care comes at a cost despite various policies introduced by the government in the healthcare sector, people are not able to take care of the elderly the way they should in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led the elderly people to stay along and the added compulsory quarantine has caused them to have a detrimental effect on their minds.[2]

Loneliness is the primary factor when assessing the mental health of the elderly. People who are already lonely with deteriorating health with age when they get affected with an infection like COVID-19 this further acts as a catalyst and affects the mental health of the elderly. Same is the result when the elderly population residing in care facilities have their friends get infected and are quarantined.[2]

Physicians are now acknowledging the fact that social isolation and quarantine increase loneliness in the elderly population which is a primary factor in the decreasing mental health of elderly patients with COVID-19. Aside from depression, it also causes anxiety, cognitive impairment and even cardiovascular illnesses increasing their chances of succumbing to an infection like COVID-19. Another disturbing fact that has come up is the rising report of abuse in the elderly population due to lockdown. This is because the elderly have become more dependent on people than before increasing the cases of domestic violence. This is seen more in communities where there is inadequate social and mental care resource.[2]

A study states that the elderly people who are subjected to abuse are more at risk for developing mental conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress which tend to get worse due to lockdowns and quarantine. During a lockdown, the elderly people get more vulnerable since essentially they get trapped with their abusers with nowhere to go. While many countries have taken a note of the situation when it comes to taking care of the elderly, the United States of America is still to make amends to their policies to protect the elderly from not only the COVID-19 but also ensure that they stay healthy mentally.[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 15, 2021

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