Even before the pandemic, seniors living alone at home likely didn't see their children and grandchildren as often as they wish they could. Because the elderly and those with certain health conditions are more at-risk for COVID-19, many seniors have been more inclined to stay shut in out of fear of catching the virus. Family members may also be wary of visiting since there's a risk of carrying and transmitting the virus to their at-risk elderly relative.
If you have an aging parent or loved one who lives by themselves, you may have already noticed the negative impact of social distancing on their well-being. Without regular human contact, this sense of isolation may worsen and have a lasting impact on their physical and mental health.
The impact of isolation on seniors
According to the National Institute of Aging, social isolation, and loneliness in older individuals has been linked to anxiety, obesity, heart disease, and depression. When left alone, seniors are more at risk for cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Loneliness and isolation can also impact the immune system. These feelings can trigger a fight or flight response, which creates stress. When people are stressed, they have a harder time fighting off toxins, making them more susceptible to certain infections.
Consider these statistics from Welbi:
● Lonely seniors have a 59% higher risk of physical and mental health decline.
● Seniors who suffer from loneliness have a 64% higher risk of dementia.
● Among seniors who live in residential care facilities, the rate of depression has been shown to be as high as 44%.
How to help your loved ones feel less isolated
If you haven't been able to see your aging parent or relative due to social distancing, there are things you can do to ease their sense of isolation and loneliness. While you may not be able to be in the same physical room as your loved one, you can follow these tips to help them feel loved and connected:
Send them snail mail. A piece of mail gives your loved one something tangible to hold onto. This can be a handwritten note, photos, or even small trinkets such as seashells from their favorite beach.
Call them often. If your relative is tech-savvy, video calls are the next best thing to being together in person. When video is not an option, a simple phone call on a regular basis can give them something to look forward to.
Encourage physical activity. Motivate them to get out of their house and get moving, even if it’s just around their community. A walk outdoors on a sunny day or even down the hall can help improve your loved one’s mood.
Help them stay connected with social media. There’s always something to see and do on social media. Teach your elderly loved ones (from afar if needed) how to set up a Facebook or Instagram account and use social media to interact with friends and family.
Send text messages. Text messages are a great way to send loving messages, photos, and videos back and forth. In between phone calls, share content that you know will make them smile.
Consider moving them to a senior living community. Although this is a challenging time to consider a move, it could be the ideal solution for your loved one if they're feeling cooped up and isolated. Being with other residents and staff on a daily basis, even if it's from a safe social distance, can help them feel happier and healthier.
Looking to move your loved one to a senior living community? Welcome Home Senior Services & Placement Co. can help. Contact us today to speak with our senior placement specialists, who can guide you through the search process from a safe distance.