Social isolation is often something many seniors living in their own homes struggle to avoid. As a caregiver, you most likely do your best to make sure your parent doesn’t feel too isolated by either visiting frequently, arranging outings for your parent or hiring a home care provider to visit and spend time with your parent.
Right now, with colder winter weather keeping us indoors and the current health crisis eliminating many indoor gatherings, social isolation is at its highest for seniors. Social isolation doesn’t always mean the same thing as loneliness. Some people enjoy the isolation and have enough other connections in their lives that it doesn’t compound their loneliness. But, if as a caregiver, you have sensed that your parent suffers from loneliness, social isolation can compound upon that loneliness and can have adverse health risks. Let’s look at some of the negative health affects loneliness can have on your parent.
- High blood pressure: Your parent may not feel the immediate effects of this, but high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Heart disease: Loneliness creates wear and tear on the body and can lead to heart disease.
- Obesity: Obesity can lead to many other diseases and health issues such as diabetes. It can also make getting around even more difficult.
- Weakened immune system: People who feel lonely often have weakened immune cells, making it harder for their bodies to fight off viruses and bacteria. This can lead to more cases of influenza, colds and even viruses like Covid-19.
- Anxiety: Being socially isolated while feeling lonely can increase anxiety, making taking those steps toward connecting with others even harder.
- Depression: Loneliness creates a sadness that can be hard to shake. Combine it with not being able to visit your loved ones or get outside to experience fresh air and sun, and depression can often occur.
- Cognitive decline: Loneliness can cause the mind to fixate on certain things or go down rabbit trails that aren’t healthy thinking.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Many factors lead to Alzheimer’s disease and while being socially isolated isn’t alone responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, it can make dealing with the adverse effects of Alzheimer’s even more difficult. It may even exasperate or increase some symptoms.
- Death: Sadly, while older adults make up about 12% of the population, they account for 18% of the suicides. And for every ten years older they are, the suicide rates increase.
As a caregiver, helping your parent through these next few months may be extra critical, as social centers stay closed, weather extremes make getting out dangerous and even as the rest of society struggles with how to be kind and accepting of those who disagree with them. Check in with your parent often, asking questions that might seem a little awkward but require your parent to answer honestly about her what’s happening internally in her mind. If you find social isolation is leading to deeper feelings of loneliness, talk with your parent, your family members and your home care provider about ways you can make sure your parent stays healthy and feels cared for even when she cannot physically be with those she loves.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering a Caregiver in Grants Pass, OR, please contact the caring staff at Southern Oregon In-Home Care today! Proudly Serving Seniors in Josephine & Jackson Counties, Oregon. Call us today! (541) 236-4247.