One Guarantee Comes with Aging…Change
As we age, often circumstances in our lives change; Children grow up and may move away; We retire from our jobs; Friends may move away; Vision may become worse making driving unsafe; We may require more medications for various issues. These medications may induce dizziness making us less steady on our feet than we once were. When these changes happen, we often do not realize how much it affects our ability to remain connected to our friends and loved ones. This may cause, what we call, senior isolation.
HomeWell Care Services has programs that can help. They provide caregiving services for seniors to help improve their quality of life. Karen Heyse, Owner of HomeWell Care Services of Pima stated “One of our popular programs is the Life Enrichment Activities Program. It is structured around the client’s past and current enjoyable activities along with some new activities. The goal is to reduce senior isolation and loneliness.”
The success of the HomeWell programs is partially due to Karen’s drive to help seniors. Over the years, Karen experienced the passing of her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, a grandfather with cancer, and the passing of her mother. Watching her grandmother lose her memories of the times they had together knitting in front of her home, cooking in the kitchen on the holidays, joys of her holding her granddaughter, and the list goes on, was hard for Karen. As a very young child, Karen helped her mother through several medical conditions. She knew she had to find a way for her to help other families cherish their time with their loved ones. It is her goal to bring a smile to every client each day, so that senior isolation and loneliness will no longer be an issue. Let’s talk about senior isolation.
Senior Isolation versus Senior Loneliness
Senior isolation is a term used to describe feelings of loneliness and depression found among seniors. Senior isolation can be measured using observations of an individual’s social interactions and network. An individual may be alone but may not necessarily be lonely. Changes in physical condition, loss of friends, inability to leave the home, and other conditions may cause a senior to become removed from society. Senior loneliness is measured using questions that seek perceptions of relationships, social activity, and feelings about social activity. Loss of a spouse as we age can result in feelings of loneliness.
According to the National Institute on Aging, “senior depression is more than just feeling sad or blue. It is a common but serious mood disorder that needs treatment. It can affect how seniors feel, think, and handle daily activities such as sleeping or eating. It is important to recognize that senior depression is a real illness and not something that someone can just “snap out of.”
Recognizing Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults
Depression among seniors can often be difficult to recognize. For some older adults with depression, sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less obvious symptoms of depression, or they may not be willing to talk about their feelings.
Some symptoms may include:
- Increase fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest
- Confusion or attention problems
- Increased/decreased appetite
If a senior has several of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, they may be experiencing senior depression and it is important that they contact their physician for expert treatment.
How is Health Affected by Senior Isolation and Loneliness?
Senior loneliness and depression are more than just a social problem, they are serious public health issues. Research has linked loneliness to increased mortality rate comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
For those that are isolated or experience loneliness, studies show higher rates of:
- Chronic health issues such as heart diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, etc,
- Overall weakened immune system
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Admissions to long-term care facilities
Some common risk factors that may contribute to increased isolation and loneliness:
- Lives alone
- Difficulty ambulating (walking)
- Visual impairment
- Life transitions
- Loss of loved ones
- Lack of social support
Ways to Decrease the Risk of Isolation and Loneliness and Stay Connected
We all need social connections to thrive. It oftentimes takes effort to stay connected with our friends and family. Seniors can take steps to maintain and strengthen ties to their family, to their friends, and to expand their social circles to become more involved in the community around them. The following tips can help lessen isolation and feelings of loneliness:
- Communication must be a priority. Some older adults go days without speaking to anyone at all.
- Encourage and facilitate social activities.
- Use social media to stay connected.
- Stay physically active.
- Explore hobbies and volunteer opportunities.
- Hire HomeWell to assist.
HomeWell’s main goal is to help as many seniors build enrichment in their lives. For a free consult call 520-327-2555.
HomeWell Care Services provides care in: Tucson, Saddlebrooke, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Vail, Sahuarita, and Marana.