Home Care Remedies for Chronic Loneliness in Seniors


“We’re all lonely from time to time, but the problems come when someone is chronically lonely.”

Caring for WFC’s senior population has given us exposure to numerous conditions, medical and otherwise, arising from our clients aging in place in their homes. It is not unusual for WFC nurses and caregivers to detect symptoms of loneliness, especially during the cold winter months, when they are more likely to keep indoors. It is critical, therefore, to be able to correctly identify loneliness so that an appropriate care plan can be applied.

Experts like Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a Brigham Young University neuroscience professor, point out that “People who live alone aren’t necessarily lonely and that there are many who may be nested within a close-knit family and still feel disconnected.” Moreover, the clients themselves may not recognize or be able to articulate that loneliness is even a problem. It helps when a trusted outsider points out that loneliness may be harming seniors who live alone.

“Loneliness is tricky because someone has to tell you,” says Kerstin Gerst Emerson, a  clinical assistant professor in the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Georgia in Athens.

What does chronic loneliness do to the brain?

Cigna Corporation cites chronic loneliness as having a potentially negative impact on brain health and cognitive skills.

“Research shows that chronic loneliness can have a significant impact on your overall health, including your brain health. Some studies suggest that there may be a link between loneliness and an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Long term feelings of loneliness and social isolation can also reduce cognitive skills, such as the ability to concentrate, make decisions, problem-solve, and even change negative self-beliefs. And it can ultimately lead to depression.”

-Cigna Corporation 


Can long term loneliness lead to health problems?

Cigna again cites chronic loneliness as having potentially negative impacts on vital health issues.

“Long-term feelings of loneliness can affect your health in many ways. For example, chronic loneliness can drive up cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that your body creates when under stress. Over time, higher cortisol levels can lead to inflammation, excess weight gain, insulin resistance, problems concentrating, and more.

If left unchecked, these chronic loneliness symptoms can put you at higher risk for more serious medical and emotional problems, including:

  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health and emotional problems
  • Substance abuse

There is even the possibility that chronic loneliness and the health risks that come with it, could shorten one’s life span.”

-Cigna Corporation

Our WFC nursing staff and caregivers have professional training in recognizing and caring for loneliness, which requires practiced and keen observation skills. We watch for signs of social isolation, which often goes hand-in-hand with loneliness. These social isolation circumstances can take many forms:

Signs that a person might be isolated:

  • Profound boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene
  • Poor eating and nutrition
  • Significant disrepair, clutter, and hoarding in the home

— AARP Foundation

“There is a human need to be embedded and connected.”

We believe that successful “home care remedies ” for loneliness comprise two different activities: companionship and getting out of the house. Both are done to bolster the client’s social setting, to feel connected, and to offset the feeling that (s)he is all alone.

Loneliness, says Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago, “is a universal human experience, and being the social animals that we are, there must be implications when those social connections are not satisfied.” There is a human need to be embedded and connected,” she notes.


Our Support Plan: Conversation, Interaction, and Stimulation

Companionship Services

All WFC caregivers bring their Home Health Aide (HHA) training and a care plan into their clients’ homes. Importantly, they also play the vital role of companion. Caregiving is especially valuable when there are no family members nearby, or adult children are remote. Conversation, interaction, and stimulation are also part of the care plan, and all help to break the barrier of social isolation.

Personal chemistry and engaging caregiver personality are some of the positive elements of companionship that come into play, which keep the client involved. Interaction happens around mealtime activities like shared cooking and eating together. Other typical interactions include game playing, cards, crafts, sewing, sports, and sharing each other’s culture, stories, or interests.

Senior Transportation Services


Other central parts of the “softer” care plan are getting clients out of the house by providing transportation and safety. Several factors can impact the scope of providing companionship and getting out of the house. All WFC caregivers must be able to drive, and they help clients get to events where the activity may have a social element, i.e., Women’s Club, Men’s Club, MahJong, shopping, eating out, hairdresser, barber, and the movies.

Caregivers also drive and accompany clients to doctor appointments. Another way our caregivers assist in getting clients out of the home is to recommend and provide transportation to volunteer activities, which are rewarding ways to increase social interaction.

If a client has cognitive issues such as dementia, the range of social interactions, and getting out activities is more limited. The client’s living situation also plays a part – whether the family is geographically close or adult children are out of town. Caregivers’ activities will also differentiate by those done in the house (companionship and conversation) vs. outside the home (social interaction.)

WFC strongly believes that, in getting to know the client very well, our caregivers can adopt the right level of companionship and stimulation. All of which helps to clear the fog of loneliness.

Westchester Family Care Inc. assists people of all ages by customizing home care plans to maintain a healthy quality of life and safety at home.

Contact WFC for an immediate family need or when planning for future needs: info@westfamilycare.com, 914-764-7500www.westchesterfamilycare.com.

Westchester Family Care Provides Peace of Mind and Confidence that the Elderly Are Safe and Living with Dignity in Their Own Home.

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