Is Your Senior Loved One Lonely?
“Being alone” and “feeling lonely” are not necessarily the same. Being alone is a physical experience occurring when a person is not surrounded by other people. Feeling lonely or isolated, on the other hand, is a mental and emotional experience that could harm an individual’s physical and mental well-being.
Senior loneliness can cause significant emotional distress, especially during times of increased anxiety such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites research that says nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be “socially isolated” and could be at risk for cognitive decline, dementia, depression, heart disease, and other ailments.
Signs Your Seniors May Feel Lonely
Because of these health risks, family members need to recognize when senior loved ones feel isolated. Here are some signs to determine if help is needed:
- Personality and behavior changes
Has your senior recently started to behave differently? Have they been significantly quieter, cutting themselves off from family and friends, enjoying their favorite activities less, or making more negative comments about themselves? Are they experiencing frequent mood swings, forgetfulness, or feelings of apathy? If so, they may be feeling the stress of loneliness.
- Diminished self-care
If you notice your senior is appearing more unkempt or allowing their household to become messy, they may be struggling and need your help. Losing or gaining weight, eating less, overeating, or abandoning regular daily routines, such as going for a walk, are also signs they need assistance.
- Loss of a spouse or friends
The loss of a spouse, family member, or close friend can also contribute to a downward spiral, emotionally and physically. For older adults who have spent a long time together, losing a spouse or friend can be overwhelming. Even years after a loss, your loved one may still feel secluded.
Helping Seniors Through the Effects of Loneliness
There is good news. You can help your elderly loved one feel more connected through the following tips and recommendations:
- Reach out and stay in contact
Although it may seem simple, reaching out to your elderly loved one can prompt them to engage in social interaction again and help reduce feelings of isolation. Make sure to stay in contact and check in with your loved one at least a few times a week to have a meaningful conversation, enjoy a game or meal together, or just to ask how they are feeling and if they need anything.
- Find activities to do alone
Being alone can be challenging for older adults, but there are healthy activities they can partake in to improve their well-being. They may be interested in embracing an old pastime or learning an entirely new hobby. If your senior loved one is having trouble finding activities to do alone, suggest learning a new one together or asking them to teach you about an old hobby they once enjoyed.
- Adopting a pet
A pet can be helpful for some seniors dealing with feelings of solitude. Pets can be loyal companions and offer some of the same emotional benefits as human interaction. Caring for a pet may also help your loved one stay active and engaged. Of course, not every older adult is equipped to handle a pet, so make sure you carefully consider your loved one’s needs and their ability to meet a pet’s necessities before suggesting this as an option.
- Companion care
Companion caregivers help older adults continue to age in place at home safely and comfortably by assisting with essential senior care duties. Companion care can help provide the social interaction your loved one may be missing. Having someone to go on a walk with or have meaningful conversations can boost their spirits. Even just having a familiar face to see regularly can reduce their melancholy.
Are you contemplating if an elderly loved one could benefit from a companion caregiver? Our Visiting Angels care coordinators are available to discuss your loved one’s needs during a free home care consultation. Schedule a no-risk, no-cost consultation with your nearest Visiting Angels’ home care location.