Loneliness and social isolation can have a detrimental effect on older adults. It can lead to depression, physical illness and even dementia.
“Unfortunately, isolation among seniors is quite common. As the population ages, more and more people will become isolated,” said Bob Tucker, qualified dementia care provider (QDCP) at Northbrook-based Senior Helpers serving the north and northwest suburbs to the Wisconsin border.
Here are nine ways to help seniors avoid isolation and its effects:
1. Have a sense of purpose and involvement
Seniors who have a purpose avoid isolation. Many seniors volunteer at food pantries, or their church. Some volunteer with a children’s organizations or at an animal shelter. Others sign up to become a Score business consultant--sharing their business knowledge with companies in need. Many seniors find new hobbies such as painting, playing bridge, knitting or woodworking, which can be fun and fulfilling.
2. Consider owning a pet
The art of nurturing a pet can relieve feelings of social isolation. Studies have shown that pet owners who have a furry companion tend to be happier and healthier. Whether it’s a cat or a dog, or something else, a pet can make a real difference in a senior’s life.
3. Have hearing and vision tests
Some seniors become isolated because they don’t hear or see well. Untreated hearing problems makes it difficult to communicate with others, especially on the phone. This leads many seniors to isolate themselves. Recently, doctors are even tying hearing issues and isolation to dementia. Regular vision tests are important as well. Make sure your loved one has a current eyeglass prescription. Vision problems often result in senior isolation and falls!
4. Solve the transportation issue
Lack of adequate transportation is another cause of social isolation. Check to see if your town or village has arrangements with a local taxi company for discounted rides. Another option is to use public transportation and find out if senior discounts are available as well. Some areas have programs offering free home pick-up rides for seniors. Uber even has a new program making it easier for seniors to call for a ride.
5. Encourage dining with others
It is important that seniors share a meal with others whenever possible. If a senior is living in a senior living community, that is possible every day. Seniors living independently can share meals at church, senior centers, and of course, with their families.
6. Make technology available
Teach a senior how to use the computer for emailing friends and family or playing games. You may also want to teach them how to text. With today’s technology, wired-in seniors will never feel truly alone again. There are even companies that will come to a senior’s home, on a regular basis to help them learn various technologies.
7. Give extra support to seniors who have lost a spouse
Adults who have lost a spouse need special care and attention. It’s important to provide extra emotional and social support by going the extra mile. See them regularly or call often. Consider setting up a schedule for the senior’s children, grandchildren and other relatives and friends to visit consistently.
8. Give a hug
“There is nothing like hugs from friends and family,” said Abbie Tucker, senior advocate and client services director, certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and a qualified dementia care provider (QDCP). “Hand holding and hugs make people feel a sense of love and well-being.”
9. Consider hiring a caregiver
A well-screened and trained, professional caregiver from a licensed agency, can be a great addition to a senior’s support team. Schedule them when others can’t be there, or to do the things friends and family members can’t/shouldn’t help with. They can provide transportation, housekeeping, laundry, bathing, dressing, toileting, medicine reminders, meal preparation, dressing–and love and support.
If you would like to learn more about how Senior Helpers In-home Caregivers can help you or a loved one, please contact Bob Tucker at Senior Helpers: 847-564-7500 or email him at email@example.com.
This Senior Helpers office is the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Cares Affiliate office for all of Chicagoland and has established an Alzheimer’s/Dementia/Parkinson’s Care Resource Center for the community. For the past five years, they have also been ranked as one of the Top Home Care Agencies in America.