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Sacramento Lingering Pandemic Leaving Many Seniors’ Health in Decline

Friday, October 30, 2020, 9:00 PM


The uncertainty, fear and social isolation brought on by COVID-19 is leaving a growing number of older adults increasingly vulnerable to a variety of health risks. Psychiatrist James Pratty, M.D. is Medical Director of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health for Brand New Day, a Medicare Advantage prescription health plan currently available in 12 California counties and will be available in 16 California counties in 2021. He says infection fears, family separation, lack of socialization, boredom, frustration and financial loss are causing seniors to experience a decline in their mental and physical health.
“While social isolation is effective at keeping seniors protected against COVID-19, the loneliness many of them are suffering is raising new health concerns,” says Pratty, who distinguishes loneliness (emotional suffering from being disconnected from other people) with social isolation (simply not being around other people). “Loneliness is the social equivalent of feeling physical pain and they even trigger the same pathways in the brain. Research shows that prolonged loneliness is associated with higher risk for stroke, heart disease and even premature death.”
Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health has linked prolonged loneliness to higher risks for anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Pratty says there are steps some seniors can take to reduce the ill effects of loneliness.
“Going outdoors into the fresh air and sunshine and engaging in physical activities like walking, swimming and stretching or meditative practices like yoga and breathing exercises are good first steps,” he advises. “Also, solving crossword puzzles, playing card games and reading are good at boosting one’s cognitive ability.
“It’s also important to refrain from certain activities,” he continues. “I advise patients to reduce their time watching stress-inducing television like local newscasts and political opinion shows, staying away from toxic people and influences and avoid using social media too much.”
Pratty suggests that those with more severe feelings of depression or anxiety should immediately seek help from a licenced mental health professional.
“At Brand New Day, we are offering members access to myriad experts including psychologists and psychiatrists through telemedicine so they don’t even need to leave the comfort of their homes for treatment,” he says. “One way or another, it’s important to get help.”
Brand New Day, a Medicare Advantage prescription health plan available in 12 California counties, offers a number of specialty plans in addition to its standard Medicare plan. They include the Embrace Plan for members with heart disease, hypertension and/or diabetes; Bridges Plan for members with dementia and Alzheimer’s; SelectCare Plan for members residing in long-term care (nursing homes) facilities; and Harmony Plan for members with mental illness including major depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and paranoid disorder.
For qualifying members, the plans cover transportation to and from medical appointments; vision, dental and hearing aids; 24-hour/day nurse and physician line; and health nurses and life coaches. In addition, members with chronic illnesses are not only treated medically, but in a variety of other ways including education about the member’s chronic or ongoing medical conditions and avoidable risks, nutrition, exercise, self-testing and monitoring, medication adherence to doctor orders, preventive care planning and linkage to community support programs.
Brand New Day offers comprehensive benefit programs designed for its members’ unique healthcare needs. In addition to its Medicare only, Medicare and Medi-Cal members, the plan offers specialized programs for those with ongoing medical conditions including Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Dementia and Mental Illness. It also serves those who live in

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