The older a person becomes, the more vulnerable they are to isolation and loneliness. Although essentially socio-emotional issues, these affect physical well-being. Seniors who are isolated are more likely to develop obesity, inflammation problems, and weak immune systems, not to mention a higher risk of falls and rehospitalization. With that in mind, the goal of every caregiver is to keep loved ones from slipping into the loneliness pit. Here are some ways to prevent isolation:
Address physical health problems.
Seniors often isolate themselves due to physical disabilities and limitations. For instance, someone who is having trouble maintaining their balance might be insecure about moving around and getting out of the house. Thus, they keep to themselves, watch cars by their windows, or spend the entire day in bed. Address this by restoring their confidence. Provide a cane, a walker for the elderly, or a wheelchair. In other instances, incontinence makes seniors hesitant to go outside and socialize with their peers. Introducing behavioral changes, like scheduled bathroom trips or bladder training, can help reduce symptoms. Of course, you also can ask your parents’ doctor for medical devices.
Suggest volunteering or taking care of a pet.
Some seniors tend to isolate themselves because they have lost their sense of purpose. With the death of a spouse and the moving away of adult children, they feel less of themselves. To avoid those ill feelings and restore a sense of purpose, let them volunteer for a local cause in your community, like feeding programs for homeless families or beach cleanup drives. You can also get them a pet to take care of or a garden to maintain. Experts say that the act of nurturing others can offer emotional benefits that prevent isolation tendencies. Just make sure though that you give them the assistance they need, like driving them to the homeless shelter, taking their pets to the vet, or doing the heavier garden tasks. All these activities can hopefully boost your loved one’s self-esteem and keep them from isolation.
Prioritize eating together or with peers.
Meal times are usually lonely moments for aging people. For most of their lives, dining has been about coming together, sharing stories about their kids’ homework or someone’s job promotion, and just enjoying each other’s company. The elderly yearn for experiences that cannot happen anymore. Thus, as much as you can, make meal times as social as possible. If you are living away from your parent, visit them for lunch or dinner or invite them over to your house. Encourage them to go to the local senior community center as well to dine with their peers. If you are with them under the same roof, drop the phone during meal times, stop scrolling on your social media, and engage in meaningful talks with your loved ones.
In the end, isolation affects your loved ones’ health physically and emotionally. Do not let them fall into that pit. Remember these tips as you remind them that they are not lone rangers.