Broken Heart Syndrome: Another Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As if life could not get worse. A recent study suggests more people are suffering with stress cardiomyopathy during this COVID-19 pandemic. Stress cardiomyopathy is also called broken heart syndrome.

SYMPTOMS OF BROKEN HEART SYNDROME

Symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack. There is chest pain and shortness of breath. Low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat are other symptoms. There are not usually any blocked arteries.

CAUSES

The causes of stress cardiomyopathy are not fully known. However, stressful events can cause broken heart syndrome. As a result, a person can be affected in both their body and heart.

The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously stressful. Additional stress comes from restricting visitors in nursing homes.  Stress also comes from changes in residents’ routines and activities.  Residents are experiencing increased stress. Direct care workers are also dealing with their own stress, their residents’ stress, and family members’ stress.

ESSENTIAL AND NONESSENTIAL

At this time, only essential workers are allowed access into the nursing home. Why are family members not considered essential? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is starting to allow nonessential personnel into nursing homes, under specific guidelines. What about family members, friends, and other loved ones? Safety is important. Unfortunately, safety does not always ensure wellness or wellbeing.

Allowing family members to visit, either as essential or nonessential personnel,  can improve the wellbeing of direct care workers and staff. It gives them a break from needing to support the entirety of each resident’s emotional needs. It also helps the residents feel less isolated and stressed.

Balancing safety against wellbeing is a challenge. Until we support residents’ health, safety, and wellbeing, we will see the illbeing and other negative effects continue even after this COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is a Grant Manager at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

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