Signs of Chronic Senior Loneliness (and What You Can Do About Them)
Posted: 9/4/2019 8:00 AM by
Seniors who experience chronic loneliness have a 26% increased likelihood of mortality. Chronic loneliness is tied to major health risks in seniors like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. And according to the U.S. Census, more than 12.5 million seniors currently live alone at home.
As a family member or friend, it is nearly impossible to be with your loved one all the time. Staving off loneliness can be difficult, yet is so important to the health and vitality of seniors. Are you concerned that your loved one is suffering from chronic senior loneliness? Be on the lookout for these common signs:
Withdrawing from family activities
As mentioned previously, chronic senior loneliness frequently leads to depression in seniors. Consequently, you may find that Mom or Dad avoids family get-togethers or visits. Although this may seem to demonstrate your loved one isn’t lonely, feelings of loneliness and depression can result in a downward spiral, where your loved one retreats even further into isolation.
Avoiding conversations about feelings
Keeping up on Mom or Dad’s life is important for spotting signs of loneliness (and other health concerns). During visits and conversations, be sure to ask your loved ones about how they’re feeling. Ask probing questions to try and get Mom or Dad to open up. A lack of willingness to talk about feelings or emotions, or constantly changing the subject, could mean that your loved one is struggling and doesn’t want to acknowledge those feelings.
Lack of appetite
Although changing meal habits and eating patterns is normal as we age, aggressive changes in appetite could signal a larger problem. Chronic loneliness and ensuing depression can often manifest itself in a lack of appetite in seniors. If your loved one is losing weight and doesn't have much interest in meals, it could signal a larger issue.
Research shows that excessive loneliness may lead to excessive and compulsive shopping as an attempt to “fill the void” of loneliness. If Mom or Dad has a sudden increase in material goods or has made a sudden large purchase that seemingly came out of nowhere, it could signal a bigger mental health issue.
If Mom or Dad suddenly speaks of people who are gone or passed with intense longing, or perhaps calls up old friends and other family members with a sense of urgency or longing, it could indicate a problem with loneliness. It’s normal to miss family and friends; however, excessive emotions that seem to come out of the blue or are otherwise out of the ordinary for your loved one could signal trouble.
What to do if you notice signs of chronic senior loneliness
If you’ve identified some of the signs mentioned above, taking action is important to protect the health of your loved one. The following tips can help your loved one deal with loneliness and build stronger social connections:
Pursue Volunteer Opportunities
Able-bodied seniors build strong social relationships and can improve their self esteem and worth by volunteering. Local pet shelters and even senior centers often need volunteers.
Sign Up For a Class
Not only does taking classes provide ample social interaction, it can also keep Mom or Dad’s brain sharp (and stave off memory disorders). Many towns and counties offer simple classes at close-by locations in a variety of topics.
Visit More Often
Although it may be difficult for you to visit Mom or Dad more often, try building a calendar of visits among friends and family members, so that your loved one can look forward to them throughout the week or month. If you live out of town, consider using video technology to have “cyber” visits using Skype, FaceTime or Google Duo.
Whether it’s at a senior center, gym, or with friends and family, exercise and physical activity are excellent for mental and physical health, and provide an excellent opportunity for social interaction.
Choose a Home Care Partner
Despite your best efforts, it can be difficult to keep Mom or Dad entertained and prevent loneliness 24/7. Partnering with a trusted home care provider (like Interim HealthCare) can ensure a trained medical professional visits regularly with your loved one. In addition to helping with daily tasks or providing medical assistance, your home care aide or nurse can provide important emotional support and social interaction every day (or as often as you wish).
Keep Mom or Dad Happy and Healthy
Chronic senior loneliness -- and the troubling consequences it can bring -- is avoidable. To learn more about home care services in your area, contact your nearest Interim HealthCare location today.