Social isolation in seniors is much more common than people probably realize, or care to think about. As the senior population in Canada continues to climb, the incidence of solitude and seclusion for older adults is only going to increase. A lack of social activity in itself can be debilitating, and exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Social isolation can also lead to an array of other health issues, like anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and poor physical condition.
If you have an elderly parent, relative, or friend that you think may be drifting in the direction of reclusiveness, then it is recommended to seek assistance as soon as possible to correct the issue. Home caregivers can provide companionship and support, while focusing on improved overall health.
Signs and Symptoms of Social Isolation
It is a good idea to be aware and on the lookout for warning signs that your loved one may be heading for social seclusion.
Some of the signs to keep an eye out for, might be:
- Neglecting housekeeping duties
- No attempt to keep up with personal hygiene
- Noticeable weight loss or gain, poor eating habits
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Decline in cognitive abilities and mental sharpness
- Apathetic attitude
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Avoiding social events, no interest in social interaction
- Letting hobbies and usual activities go by the wayside
All of these symptoms may indicate a more serious problem at hand. With the right support and assistance, these issues can be overcome to get back on track with a healthy lifestyle.
Helping Seniors Conquer Social Isolation
There are many approaches to assisting seniors on the path to solitude and depression. Some helpful suggestions, may include:
- Identifying the issue
- Social meals
- Encourage vision and hearing exams
- Addressing incontinence
- Provide affection and support
- Get pets or plants
- Home caregivers
Identifying the Issue
Step one is identifying the problem. It is typically a family member that first begins to notice the signs of detachment. Nothing can be done to rectify the situation until it has been appropriately addressed. Family caregivers can be of great help to seniors who are becoming withdrawn. Respite caregivers can provide support and backup for family caregivers, who can also be in danger of becoming socially isolated themselves without assistance.
One of the easiest and most practical ways to stay social is by enjoying a meal with family and friends. Everyone has to eat, so invite your senior loved one out for dinner, or arrange a family get together. It also helps to encourage them to share a meal with friends that live in the area.
Encourage Vision and Hearing Exams
Vision and hearing problems are very common occurrences when we get older. These issues can make social interaction more difficult, and even impossible if not dealt with accordingly. Huge advancements in technology have made hearing aid devices extremely effective and barely noticeable. Vision problems should also be addressed as quickly as possible, as some eye problems associated with age, like macular degeneration, causes irreversible and even permanent vision loss.
Another prevalent health issue for older adults is incontinence. For obvious reasons, incontinence problems can make seniors hesitant to go out and be social. This can be an embarrassing matter, making it awkward to ask for help. However, incontinence can be managed though medications and therapies.
Affection and Support
Even something as simple as a hug or a compliment can go a long in boosting confidence and self-esteem. Basic acts of encouragement and affection are known to reduce stress and anxiety, and promote feelings of positivity and wellbeing.
Pets and Plants
Having something to take care of can provide a sense of purpose and reduce feelings of social isolation. Studies on animal companionship have demonstrated the potential benefits of pet ownership, which can include:
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Decreased loneliness
- Increased feelings of security
- Greater motivation and purpose
- Less need for medication
- Increased physical exercise
- More opportunity for social activity
For seniors that are allergic or uninterested in a pet, getting houseplants or taking up gardening is a viable substitute.
If you have an elderly loved one that you may feel is heading for social isolation, help is available from home caregivers through a professional home care agency.
Home caregivers offer a variety of positive benefits for seniors struggling to find the motivation to be social. For one, it provides an additional companion that can assist with daily tasks and activities, or provide accompaniment to social events. They can also help with nutrition, exercise, and mental stimulation, while offering physical and emotional support.