Worried about a loved one's mental health? You are not alone. The lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown is expected to reveal new levels of mental wellbeing issues.
“The lifting of restrictions means we all face making new decisions about how to ensure our safety. This applies especially to people in the shielding group, the over-70s or the more vulnerable,” says Sally Graham, founder of Avant Homecare, which provides in-home care services.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, recently said that demand for mental healthcare would increase “significantly” once the lockdown is over.
Sally says: “This is an increasing concern for both our care clients and their families, but spotting potential problems early can prevent them worsening or turning into longer-term issues.”
What should you watch out for? Sally suggests: “Be alert to mood changes, a lack of interest in usual activities, hobbies or outings, loss of confidence, changes in sleeping or eating habits, or an increase in self-criticism. These can be signs of potential depression.”
Anxiety manifests in a different way. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, feeling on edge, racing heartbeat, dry mouth and nausea.
Sally says: “These are not inevitable signs of aging, and not everyone will experience them. The feelings may be temporary, and may wear off soon, especially if there is someone to talk to about any concerns. However, if symptoms are particularly severe, or continue for a long period, make an appointment for your loved one to speak to a doctor, especially if there are physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat.”
Loneliness and lack of contact with other people can make things worse, so try to keep in touch with loved ones, in a socially distanced way.
“This is not easy for everyone – you may live a long way from your loved one, or be unable to get time of work to visit them as often as you would like. For many people a visiting carer can be a lifeline, providing a friendly face on a regular basis,” says Sally.
Avant carers can provide companionship visits, where they come round for a chat, perhaps combining this with other services such as shopping – especially valuable now that some community delivery schemes are being phased out as lockdown ends.