Part 1- Isolation
Submitted by Kathy Lowry
Director of the Teller Senior Coalition
Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Estimates range as high as 5 million elderly are abused each year. Those numbers were reported before March, 2020, when COVID-19 hit and Americans became isolated from each other. As with child abuse numbers rising, elder abuse numbers will be expected to hit an unprecedented high. The stress the under 60’s have experienced since March has hit the elderly even harder. Being high risk because of age and multiple medical issues, the elderly have been isolating themselves in their homes with limited resources. Many, unable to drive have been alone for months and others, living with family have been confined within the family unit. Prior to the outbreak, seniors actively participated in many social activities such as church activities, family gatherings, theater, eating out and traveling. Since March, those activities have stopped.
Older adults are being told to self-quarantine and shut themselves off from other people who may risk infecting them. Based on death certificates of data retrieved and coded by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, 78% of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. occurred among older adults age 65 and over. Older adults are the segment of the population most vulnerable in this pandemic, largely due to their weaker immune systems and higher likelihood of having a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer.
Social isolation and loneliness are likely to be one of the most affected health outcomes during this pandemic and are major risk factors that have been linked with poor physical and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of basic self-care, poorer cognitive functioning and a 50% risk of developing dementia.
If you know a senior that is isolating because of COVID-19, there are several things you can do. Make the effort to connect with the person either by telephone or by visiting (maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask). Even writing a note giving them your phone number will make a difference. If you were connected to them before COVID, let them know you are there if they need assistance. With winter approaching, check to see if they have a source for heat and food.
If you notice any physical or mental decline that concerns you, know that you can contact your local Adult Protection agency. In Teller County, the number is 719-686-5550. The nationwide number is 1-800-222-8000.
Our seniors are vulnerable. With so many geographically isolated, and now socially isolated, your effort to connect to them is so important. You may save their life.