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Lifestyle changes related to COVID-19 transmission have had a broader impact on older adults than is reflected in current hospitalization and mortality numbers. The abrupt shift to social distancing, required to minimize exposure to a disease that puts them at ‘high risk’, has discounted the destructive impact of social isolation and/or the disruption of daily routines on health and wellness.
Older adults are frequently challenged by chronic conditions, and their health can be more influenced by what they do in their daily lives than by medical interventions. Sheltering in place - including the removal of formal and informal supports previously available every day - may lead to health risks unrelated to the pandemic. Changes in regular diet or physical exercise can negatively impact heart conditions or lead to increased weakness, frailty, and falls. Social isolation can increase depression and anxiety. The lack of cognitive stimulation from multiple activities can accelerate cognitive decline.
Being at home with dependent adults for months at a time may be hard on family caregivers too. Some are homeschooling children. Others have had to relinquish employment or school to provide care to loved ones. Many more have had to forego much needed respite - offered by day programs, senior centers, and more costly long-term care facilities- to offset the cumulative stress of caregiver burden.
Neighborhood House Adult Day Services offers affordable day care and support to aging and disabled adults on a sliding scale fee and in full compliance with state and federal health guidelines. It remains open to families in need of respite and offers quality day programming for aging and disabled adults sheltering in place at home. The program utilizes recreational and horticultural therapy to address the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive functions of participants. Experienced staff lead activities, and person-centered therapy plans are developed and regularly evaluated. Additionally, the center offers medication management and nutritious meals three times a day.
 Steinman, M.A., 2020, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults Isolated at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic, JAMA Internal Medicine, Vol.180 (6), 819-820