Elder Care in a “Post-Pandemic” Age

Elder Care in a “Post-Pandemic” Age

 Image courtesy of A Place for Mom

It’s been over two years – at the time of writing this post – since the introduction of COVID-19 into the daily lives of everyone on Earth. While some people – predominantly those who are young and overall healthy – have been able to continue with their lives normally, the same can’t be said for the elderly population and the caregivers who care for this group. While the elder population suffer physically and the caregiver population through financial hardships, both groups have undergone extreme battles in regard to mental health.

 On the one hand, one of the most noted hardships that elders faced during the pandemic were the issues of anxiety and depression.[1] The cause of these mental health issue came as a result of the “stricter lockdowns, higher threat of illness, and loss of social support”.[2] While the shorter term developments of these illnesses are the illnesses themselves, the longer term effects include cognitive decline in an elderly person, which can, unfortunately, lead to a heightened chance of Alzheimer’s Disease. [3]

 In addition to the psychological tribulations presented by the pandemic, falls remained a persistent physical fear. According to the CDC, “about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year – resulting in more than 32,000 death.” Currently, 17% of falls occur at night.[4] However, studies have found a connection between the medications that elderly people take with the possibility for falls and their resulting injuries. Several in the elder community take medicines that help with their sleep, such as benzodiazepines. Studies have shown that “the use of benzodiazepines in older people is associated with a 44% increase in risk of hip fracture and night falls.”[5]

 On the other hand, caregivers during and after the pandemic have noted several compounding effects that have greatly hindered them both emotionally and physically. Part of the job of the caregiver is to provide emotional support with 65 percent of caregivers stating it at their top priority[6]; however, that becomes difficult when caregivers don’t feel their support being reciprocated. According to Forbes, “Almost all (94%) caregivers said caregiving is not widely recognized in society, and most felt they don’t get enough support from their national government (57%), local or state government (56%), or their community (50%).” This lack of outside support while attempting to support others can greatly affect the state of mind of caregivers, especially during the already difficult situation the pandemic presents. Several of the issues worsened by the pandemic include physical health which includes decreased amounts of exercise and sleep. [7] All of this culminates into a total of 61 percent of caregivers who reported that “the pandemic has worsened their emotional or mental health.” [8]

 While on the topic of caregivers, it would be remiss to not touch upon the increasing costs that caregiving presents to families. As a result of the pandemic, families went on record to say that they spent both more time and more money on caregiving[9], but what are the costs? To use California as an example, the state with the highest caregiving costs in the nation, it’s been found that 26% of a family’s income will be put towards elder care.[10] To give more specific numbers, the average cost to hire a caregiver can reach up to $40,000, and this doesn’t include the out of pocket expenses that the caregiver themselves can rack up, which has been found to total up to an average of $7,242 annually.[11][12] In addition to the actual costs, caregiving can also present a barrier to maintain a job and, thus, a barrier to actually afford caregiving. Women, in particular, are very likely to fall victim to this crisis as women are more likely than men to leave the labor force in order to take on the duties of caregiving.[13] In short, the pandemic left an entire segment of the population devastated in more ways than one: physically, mentally, financially, but not all hope is lost.

 Companies like Mercury AI are attempting to solve some of the issues that the caregiving industry and elderly face in the aftermath of the pandemic. Through their device named Mercury Home – an AI sensor that can detect bed traffic, predict when a fall is going to occur, and provide statistics to adjust care tactics to the needs of loved ones – Mercury AI strives to lower the costs of effective caregiving for families and ease the mental hardship on everyone involved in caregiving, from the families to the caregivers to the elder themselves. Mercury AI seeks to be the hope that affected families need, especially now more than ever.

1] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.577427/full
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/62/1/62/537338
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.

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