The Pandemic of Grief

Nursing home workers are seen as COVID spreaders, incompetent in managing the virus, or allowing residents to die alone without family support. This is often unfair. These frontline heroes do not have the support or resources from management. They should not be blamed.

Mental Health America had a newsletter discussing what they heard from nursing home caregivers this year. They coined the phrase “the pandemic of grief” to explain the emotional toll.

“I am so afraid I will be the one to bring the virus into my nursing home.”

“I am anxious every day and constantly worry that I will infect my family with COVID.”

Nursing home workers should not ignore these feelings.

“I get so depressed seeing so many residents die.“

“I feel bad seeing our residents so lonely and depressed because they can’t see their families.”

The statements and stories of exhaustion, fear, anxiety, and grief are common.  The toll on their mental health is taxing. They need support and resources including a living wage, benefits, and safe staffing.

“The initial lack of clear regulatory guidance, conflicting scientific information, inadequate PPE, and the rapid spread of the disease have left staff feeling vulnerable and powerless.”

Negative stereotypes about nursing home workers during COVID have increased anxiety and, in some cases, serious depression. Staff have reported starting to smoke again and using alcohol and food to cope.

“As with COVID, when multiple deaths take place in a short period of time the emotional toll of what we are calling a “pandemic of grief” has been overwhelming.  The combination of “public shaming,” physical exhaustion, and lack of ready access to mental health services places this population at risk for deepening emotional distress and burnout.”

Many nursing home workers are caring and compassionate. The job is tough. Wear a mask.