Monday, June 24, 2019

A Caregiver's Guide to Senior Isolation: How to Recognize the Symptoms and Prevent your Loved Ones from Experiencing Loneliness

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Loneliness is a universal experience. All of us feel lonely from time to time, and most of us learn how to cope with it. But loneliness or isolation among the senior population can come with more troubling consequences. 

The Scope of Senior Isolation

According to the Administration on Aging, senior isolation is anything but an isolated problem. In the United States alone, more than one out of three women over 65 years old are widowed, while nearly half of women over 75 are living alone. And among all seniors, 40 percent are living alone by the age of 85.

While living solo doesn’t necessarily translate to loneliness, it can certainly increase the risk.

What Factors Lead to Senior Isolation?

There are several possible factors that may lead to senior isolation. Losing a life partner or long-time friend certainly are big contributors, but other factors can include:

      Limited mobility
      Rural living
      Limited transportation or loss of driving ability
      Limited budgets
Even seniors who are living with family members aren’t necessarily immune from social isolation, especially if they’re alone all day.

The Effects of Senior Isolation

The effects of senior isolation extend beyond mental and emotional symptoms and can even lead to changes in physical health.

For the large minority of seniors living alone, isolation can increase the risk of some  serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Warning Signs of Senior Isolation

It’s not always easy to tell when a loved one is feeling lonely unless they say something. However, social isolation, which is a leading cause of loneliness, is easier to spot.

Seniors can find themselves isolated due to a variety of reasons such as the loss of a long-time friend, relocation of family members, losing their driving privileges or declining mobility.

Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

      A loss of interest in hobbies or social engagements
      A sudden change in appetite or weight
      Neglected personal hygiene
      Abnormal sleep patterns
      Feelings of helplessness

You’ll be better poised to spot signs of isolation and loneliness if you are able to observe and listen to your loved one and encourage them to share their feelings.

Prevention and Awareness

Living alone can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

There are alternative living solutions that can balance a senior’s preferences and needs without compromising their health and well-being. These can include:

Senior Villages
One of the most obvious options is to move to a neighborhood intended for seniors. Senior communities allow elders to continue to reap all the benefits of a small, well-connected community while still enjoying their independence.

Know Your Neighbors
If your senior loved one would prefer to age in place, get to know your loved one’s neighbors so that they can be allies who will work with you to keep your family member safe and involved in the world.

Get Involved
Seniors who prefer to age in place can also benefit from becoming more active in their community through volunteer work, community education programs or community centers. 

If your loved one has a hobby, check into area clubs or programs focused on that hobby. Local libraries are a great place to start. 

See a Doctor
Make sure your loved one visits his or her doctor regularly. Sometimes elders become isolated not out of choice, but because their hearing or vision deteriorates slowly to the point that they’re no longer confident in their ability to move about safely and communicate effectively.

Regular eye and hearing checks will catch problems at an earlier stage while physical checkups can help prevent issues that increase the risk of frailty.

We're living longer than previous generations, but that doesn't mean we have to face our golden years alone. With the right support system, our parents and grandparents can live full, vibrant — and connected — lives for years to come.

Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, NC


Thanks Christian!