As residents of Greene and Christian Counties stick closer to home due to a mandate, there’s a certain population that’s been doing that since the coronavirus first showed up here. They are senior citizens and others at high risk for COVID-19.
"This is a very difficult time, particularly for our seniors, because this isn't just a physical health crisis, but it's also really become a mental health crisis," said Chelsea Gilliam, a clinical psychologist at Burrell Behavioral Health.
Senior citizens, and others who are immunocompromised, are at higher risk for being severely impacted by COVID-19. Three elderly residents of a Springfield assisted living facility died recently when they contracted the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
But staying isolated from others can lead to loneliness, which can cause a person’s mental health to deteriorate. That’s why, even though people in the high risk group shoudn’t be in close proximity to others, Gilliam said they need to stay connected.
She encourages loved ones of seniors and those who work at assisted living facilities to set up technology options such as Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger.
"If we're looking at isolation and loneliness being the biggest issues right now, anything we can do to reduce those two factors will help with their mental health, said Gilliam.
Loved ones of seniors who are alone right now should call them regularly, encourage them to be active and check on their mental health, she said.
And neighbors should check on neighbors, according to Gilliam.
“Anything we can do right now to just help one another is just really, really good for our mental health,” said Gilliam.
Seniors feeling isolated should focus on things they can still do, eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise and stay connected as much as possible.
If they need to talk to someone about what they’re feeling, they can seek care over the phone by calling Burrell at (417) 761-5000.
She has this message for loved ones of senior citizens who are alone right now due to the coronavirus: “It’s really important that we be o.k.with not visiting this population, particularly the elderly,” she said, “be o.k. with not visiting them in person and give ourselves permission to do that because it’s really, really important for their health.”