Health was on the forefront of everyone’s minds across the country last year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But while physical health was being monitored closely, mental health proved to be a secondary issue to pay attention to – with particular concern in retirement community residents and health care workers. From the stress of potentially contracting the virus, being unable to see loved ones, and witnessing the cruelty of COVID-19 symptoms while caring for and treating patients, it isn’t shocking that crisis intervention services like the Crisis Text Line saw spikes in activity.

Even as we come out of the pandemic, help is still needed for many. Professionals in the senior living industry can take comfort knowing mental health resources are available through a number of platforms – and that the right senior living resources can have a positive impact on overall wellbeing for both residents and staff members within retirement communities.

How COVID-19 affected mental health in caregivers and senior living residents

Healthcare workers in the senior living industry have always had a complicated role requiring them to strike a balance between personal connection with residents and knowing how to administer proper care. The pandemic pushed all health care workers to their limitis, often leading to emotional exhaustion. According to a poll conducted by Mental Health America, 52% of surveyed healthcare workers reported feeling compassion fatigue as the pandemic progressed. And in addition to the emotional stress of facing such a difficult health crisis, one of the unique ways the pandemic caused stress on health care workers in retirement communities was by requiring new levels of training that pushed many care teams past their comfort zones. Between uncomfortable PPE, keeping up with frequently changing senior living resources and best practices, constant sanitizing and cleaning, an increase in working hours against a decrease in senior care volunteers, and enacting protocols to protect residents from outbreaks, a large percentage of health care workers started reaching out for help with burnout, anxiety, and stress. This trend has continued even after restrictions have lifted.

For seniors within retirement communities, there were other factors that affected mental health. One of the most notable mental health topics with seniors in retirement communities was isolation. In an effort to contain outbreaks from outside visitors and from residents spreading the virus to other residents, retirement communities had to keep seniors as unexposed to others as possible. This meant that residents relied heavily on interactions with senior care staff members and nurses, putting an even greater strain on community teams. Due to the social isolation and fear of getting ill, it has been reported that one in four adults over the age of 65 experienced anxiety or depression late in 2020.

How to resolve feelings of stress and anxiety in the senior living industry post-pandemic

The country is well on its way to normalcy with retirement communities opening for visitation, volunteers returning to campuses, and flexible masking protocols for the vaccinated. But there is still a need for more resources to reduce the mental health related symptoms of the pandemic.

Many senior living resources and medical media outlets, including the American Medical Association, are encouraging senior living staff members to continue the mental health best practices introduced during the pandemic.

  • Feel free to feel your feelings
  • Intentionally employ coping strategies
  • Perform regular check-ins with yourself
  • Take breaks from the news and social media
  • Be fortified by remembering the importance and meaing of your work

Community executives can also take the following steps to provide their teams with senior living resources that address mental health.

  • Adjust staffing procedures and schedules
  • Offer access to psychosocial support
  • Monitor and review staff memver well-being
  • Create an environment of open communication

Senior living resources that address overall wellness can lead to better mental health

Senior living executives can ensure their communities provide residents with programs that promote overall wellness by investing in senior living resources that address creating a detailed and fulfilling community life program, medication management, behavioral or condition changes, and enriching daily living activities. Outside of senior living resources that directly speak to mental health, building the right wellness programs within your retirement community can help residents return to a pre-pandemic level of lower stress and better health. For instance, proper exercise is known to reduce feelings of depression and stress, improve sleep, and increase energy levels in seniors – all of which can lead to a better quality of life. The same can be said of a proper diet. Certain medications also can have an impact on mood, and staff members should understand how to monitor reactions from any seniors taking new medications due to complications from COVID-19 or from mental health-related illnesses. And, of course, encouraging as much social activity as possible now that restrictions are lifted can help seniors drastically improve their mental health.

SeniorLivingU can provide retirement communities with the right senior living resources to keep residents and staff members prepared, protected, and supported

Headquartered in Hershey, PA, SeniorLivingU  serves as a support system and senior living resources provider for organizations and individuals within the senior living industry. Our website provides a full e-commerce storefront for registered account members to easily purchase new senior care training courses and other helpful senior living resources as they see fit and as often as they like. You can also visit the FAQ page for some helpful tips on how to navigate our materials. To learn more about SeniorLivingU, the services we provide, and how we can provide the best senior living resources for your organization, contact us today. We look forward to helping your team receive the senior care staff training you’ve been searching for.