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Coping as a vulnerable group during COVID-19

Susan shares her mother's experience as an 'older adult' which we explore more, while Dr. Calcia talks about the impact on people with diabetes.
Must say I’m really worried about mum.
I know it’s really been tough on her lately.
She finds being referred to as an older person, as a vulnerable person. really infuriating.
Like, every single person over certain age is exactly the same.
Mum told me the other day she feels less and less like a person and more and more like a faceless someone. Just another person in a large homogeneous groups because they’re all the same age and their old and vulnerable.
Is really tricky for her. And for me.
Mom’s got a bad back. She’s had it for ages. Convinced herself the other day that she shouldn’t be calling the GP because she’d be wasting their valuable time. I said Mom, you have every right to call them. You can call them home and you will not be wasting their time.
She was never one for reaching out. Suppose that’s where I get that from.
Mum’s managing to speak more to her sister, which was a real surprise. A pleasant one.
In between her moaning about being called old Mum is actually beginning to plan what she’s gonna do when all of this ends, which is great. At least we have each other. We could talk these things through.

We established in Week 1 that certain groups of people may face additional disadvantage and psychological impact during COVID-19, such as people over 70, or ‘older adults’. Susan shared with us her mother’s experience, and some of the steps she has begun taking to manage her mental health.

It is important for us to acknowledge here again that we cannot cover all groups during this time, so we have focused on two: older adults and people with diabetes. We encourage you to generalise the principles covered to other settings and groups of people.

Susan’s mother

Susan again shared the psychological impact on her mother being categorised as an ‘at risk’ group subject to additional public restrictions. This is not to say that it is inappropriate to highlight the risk to certain groups – we have just heard about the need to address inequalities, but this must be closely aligned with a recognition of the impact of this categorisation. Her mother feels “dehumanised” and distressed by this labelling, which contrasts with her own view of herself.

For this, and other reasons, she refuses to speak to her GP about a physical health problem which may be causing her stress. It is important to acknowledge that some of the issues we covered in Week 1, such as fear, avoidance, and a lack of perceived support, can affect whether or not someone gets appropriate healthcare treatment. A biopsychosocial approach to formulating health needs can factor in a range of barriers and facilitators to appropriate care.

It is imperative that people in need of health services, older adults or otherwise, continue to access support from services and professionals. This is critical to managing both future health needs and current mental wellbeing.

More positively, Susan’s mother has been engaging more socially. She has been speaking to her sister in a way that appeared helpful and possibly unexpected based on Susan’s surprise. It also appears that Susan and her mother are able to discuss their thoughts, feelings, and challenges.

Encouragingly, Susan’s mother is also planning ahead and thinking about post-COVID activities. Activity planning can be a great coping strategy and can build hope, although it can sometimes feel hard to do this.

Hopefully, this example demonstrates how we can consider the needs of different groups and also encourage proactive steps that can support mental wellbeing. You may be noticing common themes such as social support that apply across people and settings.

Coping with diabetes

Evidence is emerging about the additional risk posed to people with diabetes during COVID-19. The next video will look in more detail at this group, considering the psychological impact and steps that can be taken. Once again feel free to translate principles to your experience.

Dr. Marilla Calcia, Consultant Psychiatrist in the Diabetes Service at King’s College Hospital, explores coping with diabetes during COVID-19.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Download Transcript of Marilia Calcia on Diabetes (right click or tap/hold and open in new tab)

As we can see, there can be a psychological burden for many reasons including our own perceptions and those of other people, professionals, and even loved ones. However, there are steps we can take and ways we can think about things that can help.

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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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