Feelings of isolation are common among seniors, although many caregivers are surprised to learn that isolation can have serious health consequences.
Unfortunately, a growing number of seniors are finding themselves alone as spouses and friends pass away, children leave home, and neighbors move.
Here are 11 facts from Dayton Home Care Assistance about senior isolation that may surprise you.
1. Increased risk of cognitive decline
Participating in regular activities outside of the home has been found to ward off age-related cognitive decline and some types of dementia. Those who are isolated and spend most of their time indoors have a greater chance of developing depression or anxiety, which can lead to reduced brain function.
Seniors who are surrounded by people who care about them, especially family and friends, have been shown to live longer and have greater brain function than those who aren’t as socially connected.
2. Increased risk of death
According to one study, seniors who are isolated without regular social contact are at an increased risk of dying compared to their socially active counterparts. This is because social interaction has a positive impact on the immune system and helps to decrease stress. Plus, seniors who have a strong network of friends and family are better able to care for themselves, which can help them live longer and healthier.
3. Increased risk of elder abuse
Did you know that ten percent of people over 60 experience abuse at some point, and that social isolation is one of the greatest risk factors?
Social isolation can increase the risk of abuse because it leaves seniors vulnerable. People who live alone in their homes or with only a caretaker may not know if they are being abused, and they may also be afraid to report it.
Seniors with strong social networks are less likely to experience elder abuse because they have people around them who can help prevent it.
4. Increased chances of entering a nursing home
One study found that seniors who are lonely with little social contact are more likely to enter a nursing home within a year. This is due to the fact that their health is declining, and they are becoming more dependent on others for support.
When seniors age at home, they tend to be happier and healthier than they would be living in a nursing facility. If your loved one is having difficulty caring for themselves, but you don’t want them moved into a nursing facility—you may consider hiring caregivers.
Our caregivers here at Home Care Assistance Dayton are trained to meet your loved one’s needs and can provide the support they need to live a safe, healthy life at home.
5. LGBT Seniors are at greater risk of isolation
LGBT seniors are more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to live alone, which is one of the greatest factors in isolation. They also tend to have fewer children or possibly be estranged from family members.
This isolation is a major contributor to the increased risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
6. Isolation is linked with many illnesses
Many long-term illnesses have been linked with social isolation, including depression, chronic lung disease, and arthritis. When seniors are less social or physically active than they should be, it can have a negative impact on their health.
This can be a serious problem for seniors with chronic illnesses, who need support from their loved ones and medical care providers in order to manage their conditions.
7. Isolated seniors are more pessimistic
Seniors who feel isolated are more likely to predict they will have a lower quality of life in the next few years. This is because isolation brings a sense of despair and hopelessness. For seniors, who are already dealing with the natural effects of aging, this can be especially detrimental.
However, seniors who are engaged in social activities and interacting with others are more likely to see the positive side of things and have a more optimistic outlook on life.
8. A lack of transportation can cause isolation
Life expectancy exceeds the safe driving expectancy by 6 years for men and 10 years for women, according to the AARP.
Many seniors do not have enough transportation support in their community, which can make it challenging to maintain independence and an active social life.
9. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression
Seniors who feel lonely are more likely to become depressed, which can have its own set of serious health consequences, mainly including cognitive decline.
Depression can lead to a loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal and difficulty concentrating, making isolation even more difficult to overcome.
10. Caregivers are also at risk of social isolation
You’d be surprised to know that it’s not just seniors who experience the effects of isolation. People who provide full-time senior home care are also at risk of becoming isolated and lonely as well. This is because more than half of caregivers say caring for a senior has led to less time for family and friends.
Interacting with others and being socially active can improve the quality of life for people of all ages.
11. Isolation can be prevented
There are many steps you can do as a part-time caregiver or as a family member to keep your loved one from feeling isolated.
Ensure that he or she has access to transportation, local support groups and senior centers. Encourage your parent (or other relative) to engage in activities within their community; you may even attend some of those yourself as a way of helping them out.
If you’re a long-distance caregiver, keeping in touch with family members who live far away will strengthen your bond and help everyone stay connected. Make sure to call them often—or send an email or instant message, if that’s easier for you—to ask about their days, what they plan to do next week, how they feel physically… anything else that will keep the lines of communication open!
If you’re unable to spend more time with a senior loved one, consider home care in Dayton from Home Care Assistance. We offer hourly and live-in care, as well as stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care Dayton families can count on. Our caregivers can provide companionship, emotional support, and help with everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, and running errands. For more information on how our care services can help your loved one maintain a high-quality lifestyle, give us a call at (937) 736-0213
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