The Negative Effects of Covid-19 on the Family
The Negative Effects of Covid-19 on the Family
Covid-19 is a novel disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which reached global epidemic proportions and affected people across all ages. When it debuted in China in late 2019, Covid-19 was thought to be a pneumonia that resembles other highly-infectious respiratory diseases cause by other viral and bacterial infections (Gattinoni et al., 2020). However, its rapid spread affected the young and old alike, with high morbidity and mortality levels, and becoming a global pandemic in a matter of months. Within a year, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed about 143,900 patients globally (Matsuishi et al., 2021). This means that numerous families lost and continue to lose loved ones while the pandemic persists. Initially, it was though that Covid-19 caused death through compromising the respiratory system in the body only, which manifests as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), as evidenced from computed tomography (CT) scan images (Hani et al., 2020). However, over time, it was found to cause multiple organ failure, making the cause of death varied (Iwasaki et al., 2021). Multiple-organ dysfunction syndrome that leads to multiple organ failure is caused by blood coagulation and thrombosis, presenting cardiovascular, central nervous system, brain, and kidney complications, with a possibility of liver damage, particularly in the elderly patients (Matsuishi et al., 2021).
Covid-19’s long-term effects are still emerging as research efforts yield new evidence and knowledge about the disease. Lopez-Leon et al. (2021) identified 50 long-term effects that lingered upon healing from Covid-19. For instance, it has emerged that Covid-19 can cause irreparable lung damage, which compromises the respiratory efficiency of the lungs, leading to fatigue and headache (Lopez-Leon et al., 2021). In addition, losses of the sense of smell and taste, shortness of breath, joint pains, hair loss, and multiple cardiovascular, psychological, and neurological complications have also been reported (Lopez-Leon et al., 2021). Besides, different people respond differently to the coronavirus, with some being symptomatic and others asymptomatic. However, even though vaccines were developed rapidly and administered in earnest globally, new variants of the deadly virus threaten to undo any protection that immunization has promised. Currently, it is not confirmed that the current vaccines can protect people against the emerging disease variants or that vaccine cocktails can enhance protection (Rubin, 2021). This is worrisome, considering that vaccination drives are ongoing in many countries across the world. It is even more worrisome for older people, who have not been included proportionately in the vaccine efficacy clinical trials, especially if they have comorbidities (Soiza et al., 2020). Besides, the long-term effects of vaccination are still being conducted; therefore, current efficacy and safety findings may not be conclusive. Moreover, it is now emerging that Covid-19 might linger on for much longer and continue devastating people, particularly those at risk, such as children and the elderly people because of their underdeveloped or compromised immunity, respectively. This is because many people are not vaccinated and can become infected. Consequently, the pandemic is likely to affect every lifespan stage, with devastating effects, thus compromising the normal human growth and development.
The elderly segment of the population is at a high risk of becoming critically ill from Covid-19. Many of these people have loved ones who are their primary caregivers, especially when the patients are not confined to specialized eldercare in nursing homes, adult day care institutions, hospice care, and assisted living arrangements. However, for those living with or have regular interactions with their families, the covid-19 pandemic can be particularly devastating. Family members are worried that their elderly loved ones could contract the virus and succumb to the disease. In turn, the elderly patients could be concerned about the much worry they cause their loved ones due to their vulnerability for contracting and developing severe Covid-19.
This discussion delves into the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as a lifespan development problem that is likely to affect people, presently and in the future. However, while the pandemic impact all lifespan stages, it is most devastating to the elderly people who are at most risk due to their comorbidities, compromised immunity, and sedentary lifestyles. The families of these population segments are very concerned about losing their elderly loved ones to the pandemic. Therefore, although the elderly patients are exposed to a disproportionately higher risk of severe Covid-19 and its comorbidity and mortality compared to other age groups, their families are aggrieved as much as the patients due to the possibility of the untimely loss of their loved ones.
The discussion begins with the dilemmas presented by the coronavirus pandemic on individuals in late adulthood and their families before elaborating on the theoretical approach applicable for this lifespan sage using the psychosocial development theory advanced by Erik Erikson. After that, the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional influences of the pandemic on the elderly persons, and the effects on their families are analyzed before outlining the community resources that can help resolve the dilemmas.
Late Adulthood and the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic
Late adulthood is considered to commence at the age of 60 and extends till death. Therefore, it is considered the last state of change in many developmental aspects of human beings. For people with a long lifespan, late adulthood can be the longest developmental stage. In the United States, late adulthood can last for an average of 13 years, considering that the average life expectancy in the country was 77.3 years in 2020, according to the National Center for Health statistics (Arias et al., 2021). However, the longevity of the females could be longer than that of males, since their average life expectancies are 80.2 and 74.5 years, respectively. This lifespan stage is very critical to this issue because the elderly people are at a high risk of morbidity and mortality induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The theory that is relevant in contextualizing the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on the elderly people and their families is the psychosocial development theory that was developed by Erik Erikson back in the 1950s. The psychosocial development theory by Erik Erikson is a psychological theory that posits that there are 8 stages along which the human lifespan progresses from birth to death (Mauk, 2022). For this reason, the theory is also known as the stages of personality development theory. However, out of these 8 stages, the last one is most relevant to the lifespan stage selected for this discussion. This final stage of lifespan growth and development focuses on the wisdom that comes from reflections on life. The elderly person that is aged 60 years or more would be resolving the conflict between ego integrity and despair at this lifespan phase. At this stage, it is expected that the elderly individual has resolved the conflicts encountered in the other previous seven stages. This theory is useful to this discussion because it would help explain the psychological and sociological outcomes of the aging process as the final lifespan stage.
Physical Impact of the Pandemic
Late adulthood is characterized by a physical state alongside several physical changes as an individual approaches the end of the lifespan. At this stage, the body does not grow but continues to deteriorate physically, as the cells are not regenerated. The physical changes can be externally observable or internal. The most visible external physical conditions associated with this lifespan stage include wrinkled, dry, and brittle skin, brittle and slow-growing thin or grey hair, or sometimes baldness, short and sometimes bent stature, and sometimes weight loss. Internally, there are other physical changes that occur, whose effects are manifested externally. For instance, the vital organs slow down as the energy levels of the elderly individuals reduce due to slowed-down metabolism. Therefore, the cardiovascular system undergoes changes such as the buildup of fatty deposits, the loss of elasticity in blood vessels, slowing of the heart rate, causing the heart to work much harder, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and hypertension. Similarly, the digestive system is challenges by difficulties in swallowing, slowing down of secretions, and slowing down of digestive reflexes, exposing the elderly people to indigestion. Likewise, urinary tract and kidneys deteriorate, reducing the waste removal efficiency of the body and causing the inability to hold bowels. In the same vein, visual and audio acuity reduce significantly incontinence.
However, the pandemic is likely to accelerate this deterioration. Covid-19 reduces the oxygenation capability of the respiratory system, which is already compromised in the late adulthood stage. The elderly people experience more fatigue and shortness of breath than other Covid-19 patients of the younger age groups with the same level of disease severity. The families of this highly-vulnerable population witness as their elderly loved ones struggle with the vagaries of a disease that is unrelated to their natural aging process. They worry much when they see their elderly loved ones struggle to breath and become unable to enjoy their sunset years comfortably. Therefore, the family members, as the caregivers to their elderly relatives with Covid-19, have to stop their daily routines to take care of their patients.
Cognitive Impact of the Pandemic
Aging deteriorates the cognitive capabilities of the elderly individuals. The mental skills such as information handling, awareness, learning, memory, and logical reasoning deteriorate gradually as the brain shrinks. Consequently, people in the late adulthood lifespan stage experience dementia, slow execution of cognitive functions, such as multitasking, rapid speech, and remembering numbers, names, people, and events. Studies have evidenced that the changes in the brain associated with the late adulthood stage include the shrinkage of the hippocampus and frontal lobe responsible for higher cognitive functions, declining synaptic connections leasing for reduced cortical density, the shrinkage of the white matter, and the production of fewer chemical messengers or neurotransmitters.
While the family members of the elderly Covid-19 patients may accept the natural regression of the cognitive capacities occurring in their loved ones, they may not appreciated why this regression is worsened by Covid-19. The family members may become frustrated when their elderly loved ones suddenly do not recall their names or there they are. The relatives may be concerned that their elderly patients cannot remember their hospital appointments or mediation schedules. In this regard, they are forced to attend closely to their alining elderly relatives to ensure that their Covid-19-induced mental incapacitation does not worsen their already compromised health condition.
Socioemotional Impact of the Pandemic
Socioemotional capabilities change differently in the late adulthood stage of the lifespan. Research indicates that some socioemotional capabilities improve while other decline. For instance, the socioemotional capabilities that improve at the late lifespan stage include better emotional regulation and problem-solving, while those that deteriorate include the ability to recognize the emotions of other people.
However, Covid-19 is likely to interfere with this progression of the elderly people’s ability to regulate their emotions and solve problems because of their socioemotional incapacitation. The elderly patients are likely to become more irritable as they struggle with Covid-19. In turn, the family members have to try and contend with such irritability, which places an emotional strain on them. Contrastingly, the elderly Covid-19 patients are likely not to recognize and relate well with the emotions of their family members. For instance, they may refuse to take medication, go to hospital, stay in hospital, or accept any of their caregivers’ assistance with Covid-19 management. They may even tell their relatives to let life take its natural cause and leave them to die. Such behavior may be very stressfull to the already worried family members.
Local Community Resources
The United States has several resources that can be utilized the individuals in the late adulthood stage to help them address the effects of Covid-19. For instance, 911 is a telephone number that the elderly persons or their caregivers can call for assistance for Covid-19 related emergencies.
In addition, there are several clinics and vaccination centers that the elderly Covid-19 patients can contact and access then they experience long Covid, which is a lingering Covid-related symptoms and challenges that affect people long after they have healed from the diseases.
People in the late adulthood lifespan stage experience numerous challenges emanating from the covid-19 pandemic. The healthcare and social systems in the United States are challenged with caring for the elderly citizens in the country. The analysis of the issue has helped explain the challenges that the elderly people could experience in a highly-infectious disease pandemic. It has also revealed the gaps that exist in the American society that could compromise further the wellbeing of the elderly people because of a disease pandemic.
Since the elderly people have reduced physical, cognitive, and socioemotional capabilities, they require much support to deal with the vagaries of a pandemic such as the Covid-19 one, today and in the future. For this reason, one proposed resolution for this issue it to create institutions and institutionalize support to help the late adulthood individual deal with pandemics. The proposed support system must incorporate family members as one of the primary caregivers.
This discussion set out to explain the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on the elderly people. The discussion traced the natural process of aging and compared it with that which is influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic in the short and long terms. it also explained the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional effect of the pandemic on this population segment and how these affect their families.
The aging theories used to help conceptualize the aging process and how it could be affected by the coronavirus pandemic included the psychosocial development theory, immunologic theory of aging, and the disengagement theory. The analysis conducted using these theories has exposed the vulnerabilities of individuals in the late adulthood lifespan stage. Consequently, it has revealed the opportunities of interventions that could be leveraged to enhance the resilience of this vulnerable group against disease pandemics in the future.
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