Seniors, like most other people, enjoying socializing and interacting. Studies on the importance of human relationships are numerous, and the elderly are no different. But did you know that there can be negative effects if they don’t see enough of other people? Read on to find out why companion care is so crucial at this stage of life.
The emotional toll
Isolation and seniors can be a dangerous – and even deadly – combination. Seniors who are isolated are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – can be harmful.
Be alert to the following symptoms of emotional distress in your elderly loved one and take action as soon as you see them:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Changes in sleeping patterns (including insomnia and hypersomnia)
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Major changes in appetite
- Complaining of aches or pains disproportionate to their condition
- Misuse of alcohol, prescription medication, or other substances
- Talking excessively about death, thoughts of suicide, or making suicide attempts
It’s important to note that the these signs can be considered consistent with senior depression and anxiety when they are not explained by another medical diagnosis (ex. difficulty concentrating that is related to dementia).
The mental toll
Lack of socialization not only affects seniors emotionally, but cognitively as well. Without enough stimulation, permanent and negative changes can actually occur within the brain itself. It has long been thought that engaging in mentally challenging activities can help ward off Alzheimer’s, or at least delay the disease’s progression. It’s astonishing how quickly a person’s intellectual abilities can deteriorate if they’re not used often enough. There have been incredible advances in medical treatment, like compounded Alzheimer’s medications, which make it far easier to address specific treatment needs with less likelihood of patient agitation or rejection. However, without enough socialization, your senior is still at risk for cognitive decline.
Essentially, homebound seniors may no longer have the psychological stimulation that comes with regular full-time work, family interactions, and community activities. Therefore, if you’re a caregiver, it’s vital to provide these opportunities to your elder.
The physical toll
Many people are surprised to hear that a lack of socialization can affect seniors physically as well as mentally. On a very concrete level, without someone there to check on your homebound elder every day, they are at risk for falls, prescription errors, and untreated medical crises (such as a heart attack or stroke). And without someone helping them prepare complete and nutritious meals, a senior’s physical state can quickly decline.
On the positive side, regular companionship has been known to decrease blood pressure, boost immunity, and increase pain tolerance. These are all things to consider if you think isolation may be a factor in your loved one’s health.
Companion care may be the solution
When it comes to protecting your homebound senior’s welfare and state of mind, companion care may be the solution. It can be as simple as having a home health aide stay with them a few hours a week to do puzzles, play games, discuss current events, or otherwise keep them mentally sharp. A companion can also provide emotional warmth and conversation, as well as help make them well-rounded meals or be there during emergencies. They may also be able to protect your senior from unscrupulous individuals who would take advantage of them, as isolated seniors are at a higher risk for becoming victims of abuse, neglect, and fraud.
Don’t wait to get companion care
As you can see, the consequences are serious when it comes to lack of socialization for seniors. Now that you know how it affects their overall health, you might want to look into companion care for your elderly loved one. A quality home care agency should be able to steer you in the right direction, as well as help your senior enjoy life to the fullest for as long as possible.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.