Recently much has been said about “sitting being the new smoking” when it comes to health risks. For our senior population another risk has been well known in anecdotal form, but much less well documented. That is the inherent risk associated with social isolation as it relates to chronic depression. According to the National Institute on Health, frequent feelings of loneliness are linked to higher rates of infection, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, depression, morbidity and mortality. This risk is magnified among our older population as they are facing retirement and a perceived loss of self as well as health limitations and possibly disabilities limiting their mobility and ability to do all of the things they want to do.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Older adults, in particular, have shown an ability to thrive with a minimal level of social connectedness. Even a small social network, church activities, volunteering, visits with family, etc. can bring a level of satisfaction much greater than the lack of same can lead to health issues, particularly depression. However, this is not a “one size fits all” resolution. Some folks are happy with little outside contact while others crave more activity. This is the difference between actual social disconnectedness and perceived isolation. One elder who appears to be socially disconnected may, in fact, thrive on a certain level of contented solitude. Another apparently active senior may feel unsupported and not intimate in their relationships and actually perceive themself as isolated. Ask your older loved one the following questions; “How often do you feel that you lack companionship?” “How often do you feel left out?” and “How often do you feel isolated from others?” Their answers will be very telling.
So what do we do? First and foremost, you must know the senior adult that you are concerned about. Not just know who they are and what their physical needs are, but know them as a person. What do they enjoy, who do they enjoy time with, what would a perfect day look like to this individual? Now, how do we get them there? What resources are available to the elder and their family? What is reasonable and sustainable? For instance, if regular family time is what your senior craves, is it possible to have a standing date every week, every month, whatever works for you and your family? If church and activities revolving around church is enjoyable, does the church have transportation available or any kind of outreach program for those at home? If regular exercise is what’s most enjoyable, a walk can do wonders and can be done with a “buddy” for companionship and safety. Senior centers are often a viable option and can best be approached on a temporary basis with enough time allowed for the elder to build friendships and enjoy the socialization. Following are a few more suggestions:
* Courses in the following, often leading to clubs or informal gatherings to do same; Cooking, Crafting, Computer/Internet, Bird-Watching, Gardening, or any other new activity.
* Volunteering; opportunities abound across many areas of need; hospitals, churches, schools, public service organizations, also check with your local United Way.
* Exercise programs geared specifically towards the older adult; check with your local YMCA, Office of Aging, or Senior Centers, as well as Health Clubs in your area.
The possibilities are really endless if approached from a position of what can we do, instead of what the senior is no longer able to do. At PA HOME CARE we are happy to help in any way that we can. We’re available by the hour or by the day and anything in between.
Call us today and let’s talk @ (717) 464-2006.
PA HOME CARE of Lancaster;
“With Hearts and Hands, We Care”,
about you and the elder loved one in your life.