Steps to Help Prevent Senior Isolation

how to prevent senior isolationAbout one-third of seniors in the US. live by themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means nearly 13.8 million seniors are alone much of the time. Isolation for senior citizens is unfortunately common and can be dangerous. 

Living alone doesn’t automatically make you lonely, but humans are social creatures, and feelings of loneliness can affect people’s health and well-being. The best method to help prevent senior loneliness is to understand the effects and reach out to older loved ones in the following ways.

What are the Effects of Senior Isolation?

  • Increased risk of health complications

Social relations are important for maintaining one’s health. Research shows that older adults who are more isolated are more likely to develop long-term illnesses than are more social counterparts. Less social individuals are at a greater risk of developing infections, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive deterioration. Also, those without close contacts are less likely to receive prompt medical attention to help prevent injury or illness.

  • Increased risk of cognitive decline

Loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive decline and increases the possibility of developing dementia or depression. This could be due to isolated individuals having less stimulation or because their symptoms are not reported as often. 

  • Increased risk of unhealthy behaviors

Being alone can lead to unhealthy habits. According to the American Psychiatric Association, isolated older adults are more likely to smoke, drink in excess, and neglect physical activity. On the other hand, having social support can encourage seniors to live healthy lifestyles, exercise, and eat well. 

What can you do to prevent senior isolation?

Senior loneliness is a health issue that nearly everyone can help resolve. As we touched on above, social support is the key factor in helping to prevent isolation and the risks that come with it. Below are some efforts caregivers, family members, and the community can do to help mitigate the effects of loneliness in seniors.

  • Make an effort to stay in contact

According to the AOA, even 15 minutes of interaction a day can help prevent loneliness. While current circumstances can make it difficult to see your family and friends face to face, the coronavirus has also demonstrated how well we can communicate at a distance. 

Zoom and video chat services are a great way to connect. To encourage more digital communication, you can provide your loved one with an easy to use table, phone, or laptop. You can also call, send emails, or write letters to senior friends and family to connect with them. Sending care packages are a great way to inspire communication, encourage healthy eating, and let them know your thinking about them. 

  • Make transportation easier

Lack of transportation is one of the main reasons seniors may not be getting the help they need.

Not having adequate transportation can prevent seniors from having regular doctor visits, grocery shopping, or personal care like haircuts. If services in your area are open, making transportation simpler and safer can help seniors access the services they need.

There are services available that can also provide transportation to older adults living at home. In-home caregivers can provide transportation to their clients. Ride-share services like Uber health can also provide accessible transportation. Some services can offer non-emergency medical transportation. 

  • Consider your loved one a pet

Taking care of an animal can help prevent loneliness in many ways. For active seniors, owning a dog can provide a great opportunity to go outside. According to the AARP, dog owners walk 22 minutes or more per day and those who don’t. Pets can also provide a therapeutic effect on owners by helping to lower anxiety and depression. 

  • Look into in-home care options

Many seniors wish to age in place in the familiarity of their home. While staying home is a comfortable place for many, it might also be lonely. Maybe family members live further away or going out to see friends has become more difficult. Having an in-home caregiver is a great way to ensure your loved one is doing well in their home and someone is there to check-in on them.

Caregivers provide many care services, but one of the most important is companionship. Friendship and communication are the foundation of in-home care services and play an important role in promoting positive well-being. Caregivers can help seniors by spending time with them in various ways, including seniors to local events, sharing stories, cooking meals, playing card games, and more. 

Learn more about how to support seniors living at home and prevent senior isolation by contacting Westchester Family Care today. We can help with an immediate family need or when planning for future care.

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