For older adults, social isolation may have dredged up past traumas that are difficult to come back from. And for those living in nursing homes that have been the center of outbreaks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these new traumas can make resuming care as usual even more difficult.
Older adults more vulnerable to COVID-19 stayed home out of fear. People in nursing homes were further isolated when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services required nursing homes to stop outside visitation and group activities in the interest of public safety. Full closure lasted six months, with gradual reopening. Some states chose to keep more restrictive measures in place for much longer.
Not only did residents lose their right to visitors and contact with the rest of the world, but nursing home staff were covered in personal protective equipment that made it harder to connect because of communication challenges. In addition, staff were busier than ever because of staff shortages and greater care demands, leaving little time to provide social support.
Isolation, emotional neglect and fear of life-threatening disease can be traumatic in their own right. Furthermore, they can exacerbate past traumas that caregivers may not be aware of.
Soon after my 50th birthday, 10 years ago, I started keeping a list of “Things I will do/things I won’t do when I get old.” It was a highly...