To the naked eye, the symptoms may be unnoticeable, but mental health issues can be profoundly detrimental, even lethal, for the person experiencing them. Mental health is considered by many physicians one of the greatest health risks. Every May we shed light on this silent killer that affects so many.
This year, in the context of Mental Health Awareness Month, it is especially important to recognize those who have suffered mental health issues due to COVID-19 and the policies that were put in place to keep us safe from the coronavirus. The pandemic has forced people to experience fear and isolation, which has taken an undeniable toll on their mental health. The uncertainty surrounding this virus has caused an increase of anxiety and depression.
A recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates that the percentage of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of Anxiety Disorder and/or Depressive Disorder in January 2021 has nearly quadrupled since January 2019 (https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/).
Mental health does not discriminate. It impacts everyone, including our seniors. Indeed, the pandemic has exacerbated our most vulnerable population’s mental health issues. Our elders were forced to shelter at home, self-isolating away from loved ones, their routines and their caretakers. The stress of not knowing when and where this virus could attack, combined with the knowledge that it was more deadly to our seniors, resulted in a greater impact on their mental health.
Early in the pandemic, in order to protect our senior patients from risk of exposure, AltaMed quickly transitioned to tele-PACE.
The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, was established by Medicare to help independent seniors with complex medical needs. The program helps senior participants avoid nursing homes by providing them with the necessary services to address their health demands safely from the comfort of home.
AltaMed has been a welcoming champion of PACE since 1996. In fact, AltaMed was California’s first licensed and accredited PACE program. Today, the AltaMed PACE program consists of 11 centers, serving nearly 3,000 seniors each year.
The new tele-PACE program transitioned regular PACE services to a virtual platform. This COVID-compliant version provides seniors with iPads and technological assistance, giving them the ability to attend their virtual doctor’s appointments with ease. It also allows our seniors to keep in touch with their PACE peers to discuss their shared mental health struggles and avoid feelings of loneliness while in isolation.
Tele-PACE embodies AltaMed’s long-standing commitment to our senior patients while also signifying our ability to evolve during times of uncertainty as we address all facets of health, including mental health components.
Your generous giving determines AltaMed’s ability to allocate resources for mental health services and address the harsh realities that seniors have had to endure this past year. Everyone, regardless of age, deserves to be heard and cared for. For more stories about our PACE participants and their new realities, please visit https://www.altamed.org/PACE.
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