Social isolation creates risks for mental illness among the homebound elderly

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — Whenever our elderly population experiences social anxiety, it increases the risk for them to develop mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Covid-19 has also exacerbated this, posing several risks for our homebound friends.

“Their mental health often suffers,” said local Lubbock psychologist, Dr. Cheryl Hall. 

Working throughout the pandemic with numerous homebound people, Dr. Hall explained how she has seen social isolation impact her patients.

“Some of my patients have clearly become more depressed, more anxious, some have had suicidal thinking,” said Dr. Hall. “And generally, they feel incredibly lonely–maybe they don’t eat well like they should, they don’t stay on the same healthy sleep schedule.”

As their mental health deteriorates, it can also take a toll on their physical well-being. Dr. Hall mentioned that patients could sometimes neglect to take necessary medications or schedule doctor’s appointments for fear of the coronavirus.

Adult Protective Services said this could also create a breeding ground for abuse and neglect.

“Once someone becomes isolated, it’s easier, because they’re not having contact with people on the outside, for people to take advantage of somebody,” said Lubbock APS supervisor, Danee Rino. 

Rino said that if you notice something out of the norm with an elderly neighbor or friend, it may be a sign to call APS so they can do a welfare check.

“Maybe you’re used to seeing them go out and get their mail, and all a sudden, they’re not doing that anymore,” said Rino. “Or if they’ve lived alone, for the whole time you’ve known them, then all of a sudden, a family member shows up, and then that’s when you stop seeing them.”

To help our homebound neighbors feel less alone, it’s important to check in every so often so that they feel recognized and cared about.

“I think when you know that you have a neighbor that lives alone, I think it’s really going to be helpful to leave little notes on their doorstep,” said Dr. Hall. “Maybe bring them a treat, something to eat every now and then. It just lets them know that you’re thinking about them.”

 If you’re concerned at all about the well-being of a neighbor, it’s never a bad idea to call APS so they can check in. You can call 1-800-252-5400 or online at TxAbuseHotline.org.

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