The coronavirus pandemic affected nearly every person on Earth in ways that we are now only beginning to understand. Quarantine orders and strict stay at home guidelines during the pandemic have created stressful situations for millions of people, including those who are dependent on care in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. A looming post-pandemic mental health crisis in America’s nursing means that care managers must seek solutions. Along with nursing home insurance, understanding mental health challenges among residents is an important part of risk management.
Mental Health Factors in the Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic descended upon the world, governments and health organizations scrambled to contain infections. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities did the same, implementing policies and procedures to protect at-risk residents. Some of the policies implemented included:
- Forbidding visitors – including family members — from entering facilities.
- Isolating residents who showed signs of infection.
- Curtailing social gatherings.
- Altering mealtimes to reduce contact between residents.
- Eliminating field trips and excursions for residents.
Although these steps were taken to protect the health and wellbeing of residents, unexpected effects were revealed. Residents withdrew, feeling lonely and bereaved. Their links to the outside world were out of reach, at least during the height of the pandemic. Another factor leading to a mental health crisis in these facilities is the loss of fellow residents to infection-related deaths and the absence of staff who were forced to stay at home with COVID-19 infections. As residents became ill, they were often transported to hospitals, never to return. These effects took their toll on residents, leading to serious concerns about their mental health. Because nursing home residents tend to require more mental and medical health interventions due to age or underlying physical and/or psychological conditions, their wellbeing declined dramatically.
Turning the Tide on Mental Health Declines
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities employ a range of strategies to manage risks. While nursing home insurance serves as a foundational element of risk management, new techniques were needed to combat the decline in mental health among residents due to the burdens imposed by COVID-19.
The first step in beginning the mental health recovery process came with the emergency authorization to distribute vaccines to at-risk individuals. COVID vaccines were quickly made available to residents. This step helped to eliminate much of the fear and uncertainty among residents while allowing them to return to social interaction with others.
As more residents became vaccinated, care facilities eased restrictions on visitors. During the pandemic, many caregivers facilitated video chats between family members and residents. This has continued, but in-person visits are now possible in a number of care facilities. Physical interaction with others has powerful effects on a person’s sense of wellbeing; during the pandemic, these interactions were all but impossible. Today, residents and family members can gather in small groups to enjoy each other’s company.
Nursing homes also leveraged mental health counseling services for residents. Counselors and therapists were in demand during and after the pandemic. Visits by these mental health professionals helped to give residents the coping skills and tools they needed to regain a sense of normalcy. This practice continues in long-term care facilities around the country as caregivers and managers remain concerned about the wellbeing of their residents. Innovative facilities implemented wellness programs and activities for residents once the risk of infection had declined. These programs can include:
- Yoga and meditation/mindfulness sessions
- Nutrition classes
- Arts and crafts events
- Exercise programs
The mental health burdens of caregivers have not been overlooked. Just as nursing home insurance protects against a range of risks, managing the stress levels and potential for burnout among caregivers have received renewed focus. Caregiver appreciation events and wellness programs have been launched to help caregivers recover from the crushing demands of service during a global pandemic. With these programs, and with the protection of nursing home insurance, care facilities across the country can begin the mental health recovery process, emerging stronger and more resilient than before COVID-19 struck.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.