As we age, the tendency to rely solely on ourselves is not uncommon. Relying too heavily on our own person can be isolating though, especially among senior citizens. While relying on the help of family or nursing staff can quickly become frustrating, it can also cause seniors to feel like a burden on others, thus creating the desire to isolate themselves. For this, and many other reasons, it is very important that senior citizens avoid isolation.
There other dangers associated with senior citizens being alone are very serious and include:
- Risk of injury. A senior citizen may suffer an injury during their time alone. This can be as minor as a cut or bruise, or as serious as a trip and fall accident. If the injury is severe, they may not be able to access a telephone to call for help.
- Risk of depression. Senior citizens are at risk of suffering from depression, especially if they isolate themselves. Depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, which will require the help of severe medical attention.
How can you help prevent or resolve the issue of senior isolation?
Provide transportation. Senior citizens need a method of transportation to get to the store, to visit a friend, or to simply go for a walk outside. Whether that means picking them up and taking them out or investing in a mobility scooter, provide a way for your senior citizen to get around. There are a number of options when it comes to walking assistance devices, all you have to do is find one that is right for their individual situation.
Visit often. Visits from family mean everything, especially to a senior citizen that lives in some kind of care facility. Even if they are short, 20-minute weeknight pop-ins, a visit is a visit. Spending quality time together allows your senior citizen to feel loved, appreciated, and wanted, and will help keep them busy instead of sitting quietly alone. If you begin to notice that they are isolating themselves more, try to stop by more frequently. If their isolation persists, you may want to have them medically examined, just in case they have slipped into a depression.
Encourage visits to worship. For many seniors, religion has been an integral part of their upbringing. Many people return to their religion in old age because they have more time for it. Senior citizens slipping into a state of isolation should be encouraged to revisit their religion, and extend their practice once again. The sense of purpose that comes with worship can rejuvenate a senior and bring them out of their quiet isolation.
Boost self-confidence. Fostering friendships is one way to do this. Encourage your loved one to participate in the activities that their facility offers. Having a friend their age to confide in and share with will certainly boost their self-worth. Another simple way to boost self-confidence this is to encourage a senior to participate in daily physical activity. The endorphin rush, along with a more toned physique, can really amp up their confidence levels.
Make their home a special place. This is perhaps one of the best ways to pull a senior citizen out of their anti-social slump. Many senior citizens live in assisted care facilities or nursing homes that can feel dreary at times. Help to turn the space into a place of their own with pictures, indoor plants, and other memorabilia. This might spark them to invite friends from their facility into their space, encouraging conversation and helping to foster relationships.
About The Author
Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Briarwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Needham, MA.