The Effects of Social Isolation on Seniors

March 15, 2021 | BY PHS Staff

Social isolation is a real concern for seniors at any time – even in non-pandemic times. But with the shut downs and quarantines of the past year, loneliness has skyrocketed among all ages. Your elderly loved one may be used to staying home for a majority of the time, but the fact that their family members and friends can’t come and visit without strict safety protocols can be even more isolating.

As we have struggled with our own challenges over the past year throughout the pandemic, it’s easy to forget about the seniors in our lives who may be feeling extra anxious, lonely, confused and frustrated. Alarmingly, loneliness can morph into depression for many seniors. Isolation-induced depression occurs due to lack of social interaction. When an elderly person doesn’t have a strong support system and spends a majority of their time at home and alone, isolation and depression can set in.

The CDC says older adults have a higher risk for loneliness and social isolation due to the fact that they are more likely to face factors such as solo living, the loss of family or friends, hearing loss, and chronic illness. Many of their friends have died, their spouses may have died, and their adult children are busy with their own lives.

As the child or other family member, you may try to get over there as often as you can for a visit, but you can only do so much. It’s helpful to have Gettysburg home care services on your side to pick up the slack when you just can’t be there to provide companionship for your elderly loved one.

Health Risks of Loneliness

It’s difficult to measure loneliness but the evidence is clear that many older adults are so lonely that it puts their health at risk. Studies show that social isolation:

  • Greatly increases the risk of premature death, rivaling the risk of obesity, smoking and lack of exercise.
  • Is associated with a 50 percent increase in risk of dementia.
  • Results in a 30 percent increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
  • Results in 4x the risk of death, 68 percent increased risk of hospitalization, and 57 increased risk of ER visits.

Why Social Isolation Occurs

There are many things that can exacerbate loneliness in the elderly. The pandemic certainly didn’t help things. But there are other factors that come into play, according to AgingCare, such as:

  • Age-related conditions like hearing loss and eye diseases make it tougher to communicate. In turn, they may feel like it’s not even worth the effort any longer.
  • Embarrassment is a factor as well. Many older adults who live with chronic medical conditions face logistical challenges in regards to leaving their home, but on top of that, they face insecurities about those and other signs of aging such as incontinence. This is common among seniors but it can certainly complicate any form of social life they may have. Also, having to rely on cumbersome medical equipment such as oxygen tanks or mobility aids can strike yet another blow to their self-confidence.
  • Maintaining healthy relationships as a senior in the face of these and many other challenges can be frustrating, especially when their entire peer group is going through the same things. This can make it difficult to get together on a regular basis, which quickly leads to a decline in relationships.
  • Social isolation can also lead to a lack of basic hygiene and household care. Seniors who no longer go out or have visitors may wonder: why bother getting ready today? Plus, if they have mobility issues that make it a hassle to bathe or get dressed, they are more inclined to let these things go.

Social isolation is a very real threat to our nation’s elderly, this past year in particular. But senior home care can fill in the gaps.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

Together with family caregivers, Preferred HealthStaff providers can work with you to help combat loneliness in your loved one. To learn more about our compassionate elderly home care, contact us toll free at 866-943-9791 or in Fairfield 717-642-8500.