2.5 million Americans reside in assisted living and nursing facilities across the country. All are under lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As expected, the residents are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety due to removed visits from friends and family, reduced activity, and alterations to their living situations.
However, the staff in these facilities are also prone to mental exhaustion. Senior care nurses and caregivers are on the front lines protecting and serving our most at-risk population. In an industry that was already suffering from short-staffing and burnout, our nurses and healthcare workers in long term care, nursing homes, assisted living, and other skilled nursing communities are also experiencing the effects of heightened stress and anxiety. Encounter Telehealth urges senior care healthcare workers to prioritize their mental health and wellness during the pandemic.
Some of our Encounter providers have shared some effective techniques, advice, and words of comfort amid these difficult times.
Randy Beckett, PMHNP
Our Vice President of Geriatric Services and Encounter Telehealth provider, Randy Beckett, wants to remind nurses and caregivers to make sure to perform a mental health and wellness check on themselves, in addition to their residents.
Social distancing doesn’t mean keeping yourself from communicating with loved ones. “Staying in contact with friends and family members through FaceTime or Skype is important, as it helps ease feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
Helping Them, Helps You
Randy also wanted to reiterate that easing residents’ stress and anxiety can alleviate the strain on healthcare staff. Residents may act out or show signs of agitation when feeling stressed or anxious. He went on to explain, “Many residents who have not had depression or anxiety now do and need help. Medications with added talk therapy is very effective in helping the new onset of symptoms due to the lock-down.”
“Turn Off the News”
Lastly, Randy recommends turning off the news. Constantly being inundated with reports and stories can add to stress and anxiety. When you do watch the news, get updated, fact-check it, and move on to a productive activity.
Barbara Lee, CRNP
Encounter Telehealth provider, Barbara Lee, provided us with some helpful techniques that she uses to help ease feelings of stress during this difficult time.
“Take Care of Yourself”
It’s important for healthcare workers to maintain proper diet and sleep. “While it’s easy to turn to snacks and high-sugar foods, they can contribute to fatigue, depression, and even lead to self-loathing,” Barbara explained. “Get plenty of rest and take care of yourself.”
While most healthcare workers get their exercise from running around during any given shift, it’s important to get outside if possible. “Go for a walk or bike ride if allowed under your jurisdiction. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise can work wonders.”
Barbara also advises, “Understand that it is normal to become frustrated and weary of one another. Give one another space as much as possible. Try to be patient—recognize that others are also scared and worried, but people express it differently.”
Many are experiencing milestones during the pandemic that they would typically commemorate with friends and family. Barbara urges, “It’s important to be thankful for the little things, so celebrate important events such as birthdays and graduations on a smaller scale. Get creative and allow yourself to celebrate and feel joyful—this will add some much-needed happiness.”
She also reminds us to keep perspective, “Remember to find ways to be appreciative. Money worries are very real, but nothing is more important than health. If you and your family are all healthy, you are ahead of the game.”
Barbara closed with a profoundly comforting thought, “Above all else, in the last 100+ years our country has been through wars, terrorism, natural disasters, global health emergencies, and economic collapse. We will get through this as well. Humanity always wins.”
Michelle “Ayesha” Macon, CRNP
“This time is unprecedented and challenging, but we are in this together. There’s a great sense of connection in our universal sacrifice,” explained Encounter Telehealth provider, Ayesha Macon. Ayesha has provided some steps to emotional understanding, which helps address uncomfortable emotions:
Steps to Emotional Understanding
- Name the emotion and make a specific statement.
“I notice that I am feeling fearful about *x,y,z*”
- Feel and accept the emotion as it is. If you can, thank the emotion for being there.
“Thank you, fear, for looking out for me.”
- Determine why the emotion is there. Is it coming from cognitive distortions?
- Challenge the distortions, reality check, and return to present moment.
When your mind starts to spin bring yourself back to the present moment. Note that you are feeling fearful. Feel your heart racing and take slow deep breaths. Then feel your feet on the floor, your back against the chair. Realize that right now, in this moment, you are okay. You are healthy, you are free, you are safe.
- Be kind to yourself.
We tend to get frustrated with ourselves and our emotions. We beat ourselves up for being afraid, for being anxious, overwhelmed or what we consider inadequate. Our judgement of our emotions and response becomes more of a problem that the initial feeling or action.
Ayesha also promotes encouragement instead of catastrophizing. She says, “This is a challenging and strange time. But we will get through and we will persevere because that’s what we as humans have always done.”
James “Fletch” Adams, APRN
Encounter therapy provider, Fletch Adams, recommends watching the below video from Dr. Jeffrey K. Zeig, Ph.D. This video goes over effective calming and stress management techniques that you can use any time, but also in particularly difficult times such as these.
At Encounter Telehealth, we have taken initiatives to ensure quality, consistent, and convenient treatment and care for residents at our partner facilities. We know that healthcare workers across the world are sacrificing and dedicating their lives to help others daily. We want to express our deepest thanks for your hard work and dedication to your patients.
We hope that you share this information with your fellow healthcare workers, staff, friends, and family as words of encouragement from our providers. Please stay safe, and know that we are thinking of you.