Lockdown at Kendal: The mental toll

Residents discuss the cognitive costs of lockdown associated with the loss of routine and lack of social connection. Across the interviews, residents emphasize the heightened mental health toll for single residents and residents of the care center.

The hardships of social isolation:

A "depressing" situation: "But boy that was, that was depressing. So it had a very depressing effect on us. We were lucky because our health was good, we had each other." - Larry Mirel

Concerns about single residents: "One of our biggest first concerns was people feeling isolated. Especially people living alone. You know couples had each other, but people living alone were single. And we weren’t allowed to meet with other people kind of thing. And it became clear that people were struggling." - Former Geriatric Nurse

The community hit crisis points: "Yeah, the beginning was really, really depressing. And I’m a depressive anyway. I mean I take medication for depression. So on the one hand I had a lot of mental coping mechanisms, and I had a psychiatrist...in going through my journal was that there were two or three real crisis points when everything kind of broke down. And one was in October and I felt that in the community in general people had kind of hit the wall." - Dianne Haley

Stuck in close quarters with loved ones: "We–even though we were glad to have each other–being together 24 hours a day every day–it was a little bit trying sometimes you know. But we managed to do that. We set up the apartment so we could have time and space apart from each other, you know. So we did some creative workarounds. But it was not the same." - Larry Mirel

Frustration with Kendal's mental health response:

Underestimating the cognitive costs: "Brains rewired: I don’t think anybody, maybe a couple of you smart people in the care center, realized the cognitive cost of this whole thing. That the chaotic nature of it meant that we were constantly reestablishing things in our brain. And I could feel it happening from the beginning and I was trying very hard to be, to keep a schedule and to keep a routine and to not be upset. But I got angrier and angrier at specific people, and I say now, don’t get angry it’s not their fault. But I think our brains have rewired completely." - Dianne Haley

Lack of follow-through: "One of the things they tried to do, they did do, was establish someone from administration. I got the billing and financial person who would call and they divided up the community and they would call you once per week. And I just thought that was the greatest thing. And then after about three weeks she just stopped calling. And that happened to other people too. And it was striking because that seemed to me like such a great idea." - Dianne Haley

Other interviewees downplay the long-term mental health effects: 

Residents quickly bounced back: "So success, I feel the fact that they were so strict was very successful. And you have to weigh that against, did it have a real mental health impact that we never recover from, but I don’t see that. People seem to be coming back and jumping right into doing what they’ve always done. At this point in time, I don’t see there being a major mental health issue. There might be some individuals." - Former Geriatric Nurse

Successful coping: "I don’t look back at it as a traumatic experience for me. It was pretty much not a traumatic experience for me. ‘Cause I didn’t let them convince me that I have to be paranoid." - Dan Reiber