Nancy Lanthier Carrol showed bravery in telling her personal story in her May 15 “Local View” column in the News Tribune, “Pandemic’s darkness, hopelessness growing unbearable.” She pointed out the seriousness of mental health issues during this time of isolation and seclusion. She asked an important question: “Have they been consulting psychological professionals about the long-term effects of their decisions?”
I have a master’s degree in the psychology of aging, with a specialty track in adult education and employment. I have great concern for those of any age experiencing mental health issues. Government decisions to isolate and seclude everyone with no consideration of mental health can be disastrous for those already on the edges of society — for example, those in nursing homes, in assisted-living or mental- or physical-health facilities, or living alone.
Human beings are social beings needing social contact. A lack of social contact means a lack of brain stimulation. Seniors need brain stimulation to maintain mental faculties and to prevent memory loss and/or dementia. Seniors in facilities or who are living alone are already lacking necessary social contact and stimulation. Add to that no visitors and no interactions, and the results can include depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.
A friend of mine in the state of Washington has not been allowed to leave her studio apartment for two months! Her meals are hung on her doorknob.
Another friend in Pennsylvania risks being fined $200 if she goes into her yard to tend to her flower garden without a mask, gloves, and boots, all of which are to be left outside. Her physical limitations make that impossible. So she can’t find solace in tending her beautiful flowers.
All are suffering loneliness, depression, and anxiety. The faithful are being denied clergy visits and/or the comfort of family, even while dying.
My sister, who’s 89 and in an assisted-living facility in Hibbing, can have no visitors, including her priest, sons, or other family. After driving an hour and a half, my 90-year-old sister and I, age 80, stand on the sidewalk in the cold wind, shouting to her through an open window for 20 minutes. My sister speaks softly. We are all hard of hearing. Then we drive an hour and a half back home.
My daughter, 51, is in critical condition in a Canadian hospital. Her husband cannot be with her. Her U.S. family cannot enter Canada.
We seniors living independently are at an advantage, of course. We can leave our homes, take walks, and drive to a park. We can wear a mask and gloves and social distance. We cannot make our regular visits to our friends in facilities. We cannot go to church. We cannot shop or eat in restaurants. We, too, get lonely, depressed, and anxious.
While we seniors are being protected from COVID-19, we are suffering alone mentally and physically. We are dying alone. And all the while our free republic’s Constitution and Bill of Rights are being destroyed. Our country’s economy is being destroyed as the unemployed don’t pay taxes or donate to food shelves.
So, we die alone, whether by COVID-19 or something else, anxious for what the future will be for our children and grandchildren.
Rilla Anne DeBot Opelt lives in Morgan Park.