11,000 Wichita seniors suffering from social isolation

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Seniors in Wichita are feeling the mental effects of COVID-19.

“Everything kind of went Telehealth, it was an extra worry of ours because technology was different and if they didn’t have family available to help them we were almost having no contact with them,” said Mental Health Association Senior Director of Outpation Services, Shawna Allen.

According to Sedgwick County the pandemic has increased the number of seniors who are dealing with social isolation. It’s impacted 24% or 11,000 Wichitans aged 65 and older. They say it puts this group at increased risk for a stroke, depression and suicidal ideation.

“If they are in a nursing home we are completely reliant on nursing home staff because none of us are allowed in there,” said Allen.

Home Health and Hospice medical social worker, Rachel Johnson said she’s been working with hospice patients for two years. Over the last several months she’s seen an increase in patients dealing with isolation and depression.

“Dealing with hospice and the isolation with COVID definitely increases the factors of depression because when you are dealing with hospice there is already anticipated grief.”

Johnson said staff is really spending time talking to patients by phone to help ensure they are staying mentally healthy, even sending them greeting cards and flowers to help remind them they are cared for.

The Mental Health Association is encouraging the public to check in on their loved ones by calling and sending letters. The association is also accepting senior companion volunteers.

“If someone has the time and wants to volunteer they can do that with our program,” said Allen. “Before it was a lot of face to face contact and going to homes, if people aren’t comfortable with that they can be the phone caller and just reaching out, asking how their week has been and just talking on the phone with people.”

For more information on how you can become a senior companion click here.

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