And how you can help.
Many of us envision ourselves growing old with our spouse or other loved ones by our side. But it’s not uncommon for many seniors to find themselves living out their golden years alone. In fact, in 2014, the US Census Bureau reported that 11 million people aged 65 and older lived alone in 2010. And while there are elderly folks who are still very active socially or who have a lot of family members around, many seniors don’t—and it’s a situation that can lead to serious problems. Here’s a look at why isolation can be dangerous:
It can adversely affect their health – physically and mentally
Believe it or not, loneliness can have an adverse affect on your senior’s basic health. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an elderly person who loses a spouse to pass away soon after. And while health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and others are more common among the senior population, some conditions become worse and new ones develop as a result of isolation and loneliness. A 2012 study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that social isolation and loneliness can result in a higher risk of mortality in people who are 52 and older.
Here are some important facts:
- Isolation often means less physical activity, which leads to decreased mobility and fitness
- Seniors living alone often forget to take or refill medications
- Diet and nutrition become less of a priority, which can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and obesity
- Isolation increases the likelihood of dementia and decreases cognitive abilities
- Feelings of loneliness put seniors at risk for depression and anxiety
- Seniors who feel isolated are more likely to experience a rapid decline in health
How to recognize the signs of isolation and loneliness
Living alone doesn’t automatically translate to loneliness and isolation. That being said, many seniors will hide their feelings or pretend to be fine in an attempt to not become a burden to family members. With that in mind, it’s important that you are aware of the signs so you can address the problem as quickly as possible. Here’s what to look for:
- Lack of appetite
- Decrease in social activity and interaction
- Less frequent phone calls or communication with family members
- Changes in purchasing habits; buying more indicates an attempt to replace social connections with material items
- Change in sleep patterns
- Decreased energy
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and negativity
- Extremely long showers or baths; the warm water is comforting, and can be an attempt to replace the feeling of warmth received from other people
What you can do to help
You love your senior, but you can’t always be with them. It’s not always realistic for children and grandchildren to continually spend time with or watch over their loved ones. Jobs, family obligations, and life in general often gets in the way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help. There are several ways to combat isolation and loneliness, including:
Enlisting the services of a home healthcare aide: Companion services are available even if an individual doesn’t require help with daily tasks or medical help. A home healthcare professional can keep your loved one company and accompany them to the store and other activities.
Adopt a pet: Adopting a dog or cat from a local animal shelter can do worlds for people, both emotionally and physically. Having someone else to take care of immediately boosts feelings of happiness and worth.
Encourage volunteering: Many organizations offer volunteer opportunities for seniors, and this is an excellent way to get out of the house while interacting with others and gaining a renewed sense of purpose.
Research classes and senior activities: If your community has a senior center or a similar organization, get in touch and find out about their programs. There are many interesting classes and activities designed for seniors.
Encourage exercise: Depending on your senior’s physical capabilities, there are a myriad of suitable exercises that will help them feel happier and increase their energy. Even a daily walk will help, as it gets individuals out into the fresh air and increases their physical well-being.
Visit/call more: Although you may be strapped for time, it’s always possible to squeeze in a five-minute phone call or a 30-minute visit to check in. And while it may seem like no big deal to you, hearing your voice, getting calls from other family members, and seeing you for just a few minutes means a lot to your senior.
Arrange for transportation: A lot of elderly folks find themselves feeling isolated simply because they’re no longer able to drive and cannot get around as well as they used to. Investigate the transportation services in the area – many of them are available to seniors at a very reasonable price.
For more helpful information on ways to help your senior, please visit our blog often. And if you are looking for home health care in South Florida, whether hourly, daily, or overnight, give us a call anytime at 877-618-3624 or fill out our online contact form. We have been providing the highest level of service and attention to clients in Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties since 2000.