COVID-19 takes a toll on seniors’ mental health

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record

While the world’s focus has been on rising COVID-19 cases, many have overlooked the mental health repercussions of isolation, fear and uncertainty for seniors during the pandemic.
At the best of times, loneliness can often be an issue for senior citizens. With the regulations and safety precautions imposed in recent months, in-person visits with loved ones have been limited, or even completely ceased, for many seniors residences in the area.
Gabriela Rotariu, director of operations at Le Renaissance – Manoir St-Francis, said that residents were concerned, and some even experienced a significant decline in their overall well-being throughout the pandemic.
“In the beginning everyone was in their rooms and only allowed outside, but now that things are going back to normal, it’s becoming bearable,” she said.
To date, masks and social distancing are still required in communal areas of the manor, as with all public spaces. Masks should only be removed when individuals are seated and respecting social distancing guidelines. Rotariu said residents have been adjusting well. “Some have had difficulties coping with isolation, but all of our residents have been extremely cooperative in terms of wearing their masks and social distancing,” she said.
While Rotariu said she noticed residents were feeling lonely and were more impatient than usual, she added, “I believe these were only specific cases though, where it was really noticeable and extreme.”
Mrs. Frémont, a senior from the Lennoxville area, described the hardest part of living through the pandemic was not being able to be close to those she loves.
“It is not the way it used to be, clearly. It’s been difficult to accept not being able to touch and be close to our friends,” she explained.
“I’ve noticed some friends who have found it more difficult than others,” Mrs. Frémont added. “I try to keep their spirits up and I still joke with them. I don’t believe in dwelling on your problems. It won’t go away so you might as well find a way to change your mind. I think that’s the best way for us,” she said.
Hosting events like bingo, physical activity programs, and social hour has required some adjusting, Rotariu said. At St. Francis Manor staff members have been working to ensure residents still feel connected. “We started an announcement every morning that it was riddle time and we would read out a riddle over the intercom. Whoever answered correctly received gifts for the right answer,” Rotariu said. “We have also been delivering gifts daily, singing with them, to keep our residents happy. We try to do something every day at 2:30 p.m. to be sure they get out too,” she added.
Although family can only visit from a distance, the important people in residents’ lives have been a large part of ensuring seniors in the community are happy and safe through the pandemic. Mrs. Frémont said that, although it has been hard to keep a distance, she feels okay. “I’m used to working a lot by myself. Crafting and working with my hands,” she said. “I always have something to do so I’m not dwelling on the bad. I enjoy life as best as I can. That’s the way I feel about it.”

For full story and others, subscribe now.

Share this article