Loneliness, sadness and even desire to die. That is what Alba, Silvina and Raquel find on the other end of the phone every day, the three psychologists in charge of the care service for the elderly launched less than a month ago by the Arona City Council. They are professionals who listen, above all, but also help and guide neighbors who need emotional support. During this time, they have been able to verify that the pandemic has left deep sequels in a segment of the population that in some cases sees suicide – and thus verbalizes it – as the only way out of their situation.
“We discover people who are very sad and worried about what is going to happen in the future, which is something that causes them a lot of anxiety, but there is also great demotivation because they do not find meaning in their lives. Some tell us that every morning they get up and have nothing to do, without a routine or a mission to accomplish, they don’t feel useful,” the psychologists explain to DIARIO DE AVISOS, surprised that this feeling of uselessness can invalidate the achievements of a life.
In this sense, aware that the tools to motivate this group are different from those that can be provided to young people -with a much broader perspective of time-, Alba, Silvina and Raquel try to reinforce self-esteem by pulling the thread of memory: “We remind them of everything they have been able to do to get ahead: the hard life they have had, the effort with which they have raised their children, years and years of sacrifice working to get the family… those kinds of messages reinforce self-esteem.” COVID-19 has exacerbated the isolation and fear of the elderly. “They lock themselves in, they don’t want to go out and there they begin to turn negative thoughts in solitude; the uncertainty of facing a pandemic, coupled with their age, has hit them very hard and fear has paralyzed them.” They explain that, after overcoming the worst attacks of COVID, family members have returned to work, have recovered their lost social life, but the elderly “have been relegated”.
In the three weeks of calls, the professionals have already found delicate cases of people who have openly confessed to them the idea of suicide. In these situations, they always contact a family member and, in addition to recommending that they go to the Department of Mental Health of the Canary Islands Health Service, they transfer the case to the College of Psychologists, which has a specialized department for the treatment of these behaviors. “We are a support and guidance service and we can do little more than listen to them with all due seriousness and activate the resources to do everything we can.”
But most cases, fortunately, do not reach that severity. “What we have found is that many times users do not have a mental health problem, but simply need a company, help, and the sad thing is that they are usually surrounded by relatives who do not listen to them, and that can generate a conflict” . To break the dynamics of isolation, they recommend “simple resources”, such as “going for a walk with someone”.
Alba, Silvina and Raquel agree in highlighting the constant expressions of gratitude that reach them from the other side of the telephone line. “It is surprising how they unfold their world: they invite you to their house, to the orchard, to the farm… to everything they have, they open wide and tell you things about their daily life as if they were talking to a friend of theirs. lifetime”.
All three recognize that gratitude is the best reward for the work they do. “They are very close and super grateful people. There is a lady, who is a sweetheart, who when she spoke with us for the first time she told us: “So many psychologists out there and here, by phone, we solve everything.”
The activities coordinator of the Elderly area of the Arona City Council, Nizamara Domínguez, invites elderly people in situations of loneliness and social isolation to contact the telephone numbers 650 714 640, 922 761 600 or 010, from Monday to Friday (from 08:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and on Saturdays (from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). “Here they will find active listening and a voice that will give them guidelines and tools to relieve that feeling of loneliness and sadness,” she says. Regarding the frequency of the calls, she pointed out that it depends on the cases: “It can be once a week, two or three. We try to adapt to the needs of the users”.