The levels of fear and anxiety experienced by older people during the Covid-19 pandemic are disclosed in extracts from calls a charity received to its helpline during the last lockdown.
In a letter to the Department of Health in late October, following the announcement of the second lockdown on the State, Alone said its call record from its helpline in preceding days showed a significant increase in contacts from older people saying they felt isolated, lonely, low and worried about infection.
“They are also feeling uneasy and depressed with the thoughts of not being able to visit family or friends, as well as not being able to visit their regular GPs for face-to-face appointments.”
The letter included summaries of calls, all anonymised, one of which notes that one elderly woman “feels threatened by ongoing Covid conditions and feels isolated, does not see people. Caller’s sister passed away last year and caller feels unsupported.”
Another entry stated: “Y called to talk about Covid-19, said she feels very bad about it and it is starting to really get to her.”
“She was calling as she was quite down about the current restrictions, and about being estranged from a few family members.”
Another call log stated: “”Mary called as she is feeling very lonely and suffers with anxiety a lot recently.”
Similarly, another female caller also expressed feelings of loneliness. “X is very lonely and just wanted a chat. She retired recently and finds living on her own very sad.”
A summation of another call to Alone states: “Z called concerned about Covid in her grandson’s schools. She was quite concerned about the situation. She described a history of ‘emotional depression’. Her sleep is affected.”
Another person was very concerned her support person from Alone would no longer be able to visit.
“M gets a support visit. She is afraid that, with the new restrictions” this person will not be able to call. This concern had made the older person very anxious as the support person brought “her groceries and is a huge mental support”.
While the impact of the restrictions were distressing for many, some reported feeling depressed.
“A rang, she was feeling very down and upset. New level was very troubling for her; she just needed a good chat, was very upset. She admitted to feeling very depressed.”
One older person, who had received a positive diagnosis, was very concerned for herself and her adult children. “C rang in tears as she was diagnosed positive on Friday last and is struggling to deal with isolating in her home. She has four children and is worried for them also.”
The details were included in correspondence released to Aontú TD Peadar Toibin in response to a parliamentary question. “Some of the records are heart-breaking,” he said.
Mr Toibin called on the Government to make sure older people have “appropriate supports to alleviate loneliness, fear and isolation”
Alone chief executive Sean Monaghan said similar themes have been apparent in the last few weeks when Level 5 restrictions were reintroduced.
“Unfortunately, we see a pattern that when the restriction level goes up then the level of anxiety goes up.
He said while older people could often be stoic, it was difficult for them to remain healthy, mentally and physically during periods of severe restrictions.
He said there was a difficulty with “physical deconditioning” where other health conditions were not being addressed and active exercise was not taking place.
The number of volunteers working with Alone has increased from 2,000 to 3,000 since last March. “If they need help they can ring us,” said Mr Monaghan. Alone Helpline: 0818 222 024