Anyone who is providing elderly home care should be aware of the possibility of isolation affecting the elderly person in their care. Isolation is a “hidden threat” to many seniors, which their caregivers can easily overlook. However, isolation can cause significant problems for the senior, including both health and psychological issues.
In our previous blog, we talked about causes of isolation among seniors. In this blog, we will look more closely at the effects isolation can have.
Research has shown that isolation can increase risks of depression, encourage overeating or substance abuse, and decrease interest in exercise and other positive activities. Isolation has also been linked to higher chances of specific illnesses, including arthritis, osteoporosis, and heart disease. One meta-analysis of 145 studies even showed a correlation between levels of isolation/loneliness and overall mortality rates. A senior with a fulfilling social life may actually live longer.
Overall, one of the main reasons that isolation can be so bad for seniors is that existing problems can seem worse. For example, seniors who are socially isolated may feel that they have fewer reasons to keep themselves in good physical condition, therefore they may put little effort into physical activity and become overweight or less able to perform tasks.
The same result is true for many ailments a senior may experience. A senior with stress-related high blood pressure will likely become more stressed by isolation, raising their blood pressure further. A senior already experiencing depression will likely be more depressed by isolation.
Additionally, lifestyle challenges can be created by isolation when that isolation is based on actual physical distance. A senior who lives far away from community centers, and necessary destinations such as shopping centers or healthcare facilities will be less able, and maybe less willing, to make the effort to seek out social interaction.
Finally, those providing elderly home care services should keep in mind that loneliness is subjective. The possibility of a senior having feelings of loneliness even while they are having social engagement with other people is a reality. Caregivers should remain alert for signs of loneliness even among seniors without physical isolation.
Remember: Seniors may be unwilling to discuss emotional problems, such as loneliness. In our next blog in the series, we will talk about strategies for preventing isolation in seniors. For more information regarding elderly home care, please contact us at Neighborly Home Care.