With the intense social distancing measures that have been enforced under the COVID-19 pandemic, unintended challenges are placed on older adults in independent/assisted living and long term care. Not only is this population at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 but they are more likely to experience damaging physical, social and cognitive effects of isolation during this time. Social isolation in residents who are already at risk may cause major issues such as depression, dehydration, falls, muscle weakness, cognitive loss, incontinence, pressure ulcers, decreased oral hygiene, disorientation, urinary tract infection, joint contractures, self-care issues, mobility issues, decreased toileting hygiene, pain and reduced physical endurance.
As clinicians continue to treat this population there are many protocols that can be implemented to counteract the negative effects of isolation on these vulnerable residents:
Regular Physical Activity
Because this illness is highly debilitating, a regular exercise program is very important. Direct care and Activities Departments should encourage regular physical activity and the following evidence-based exercises are some of many that are available online for free. Each of these tutorials guide older adults in activities while sheltering in place and includes a warm-up and all four types of exercise activity including endurance, muscle strengthening, flexibility and balance.