A perspective on isolation

Isolation sucks. I think we can all agree on that right now. Of course, there are some of us who are bragging about the new hobbies we’ve picked up, or how grateful we are to have time to breathe. There are others of us who are moaning about how we can’t travel abroad this summer. You can’t see my face right now, but I’m rolling my eyes. And I don’t have “real” problems.

It’s a funny time to be in the mental health business. All of a sudden, my thoughts are being solicited regularly. Isolation triggers depression and stress. What can we do? How can we help? Medical and mental health professionals have been able to pivot to virtual platforms for care, and insurance companies have been surprisingly quick to cover these remote services. Still, experts warn that mental health services will see an explosion of need as our population increasingly struggles to manage the aftermath of COVID-19: the increased anxiety, depression, and attempts to self-medicate using alcohol and drugs.

We’ve all lost our sense of normalcy, whether it’s traveling to Europe in the summer or going to the grocery store without wearing a mask. We have lost our feelings of control, our sense of self, and our understanding of our place in the world. It is ridiculously hard. 

The truth is that our inconvenience is really quite small. We don’t rely on a caregiver to wash our hair. We don’t have to add several hours on top of our trip time so that we can take accessible transportation. We don’t have to worry about where we are going to use the bathroom, or an unexpected delay causing our oxygen tank levels to get precariously low. 

COVID-19 has given us a small taste of the emotional struggle that the long-term homebound have always faced – the fear, the uncertainty, and the isolation. 

At Homage, we provide in-home care coordination and mental health services. We talk all the time about the impact of isolation and the importance of support – not only medical but also emotional and community. Older adults, and the long term homebound in general, are amazingly resilient. What is devastating loss of self to us is actually just another day for many of them. They are living isolation. That’s not okay. 

This is an opportunity to see the people we don’t usually see – to grow in empathy, to expand our ability to meet people where they are, to make mental health treatment for those on Medicare a priority. We have minimized the need for too long. It is time to stop taking advantage of the determination and resiliency of our homebound neighbors.

My hope is that when we start returning to our lives that we don’t forget those who cannot. This experience must deepen our commitment to funding mental health and chemical dependency treatment adequately, and in a way that meets the unique needs of a homebound population. They deserve it.

If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings for isolation or depression, we are here to help. We understand the unique challenges of older adulthood. Please reach out to our qualified Mental Health Professionals at 425-290-1260 or MentalHealth@homage.org.

Christine Vervitsiotis is the manager of the Mental Health and Wellness Program at Homage.

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