Loneliness isn’t something contagious like a bad cold or the flu, but it sometimes it can be just as devastating for a person’s overall health. That’s why everyone at Accredited Nursing is completely committed to focusing not just on a patient’s physical heath but their emotional well-being as well.
As people age, their social connections become more vital to their overall health. This info comes courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, which has studied possible links between loneliness, sociability, and depression in seniors.
It found that there are definitely some connections: the more social someone is, the less prone to depression. And the less sociable, the more depressed. And as we know, depression can contribute to a variety of physical health problems, or aggravate existing problems.
Other studies have found similar conclusions: loneliness hurts. The psychological impact of being lonely too long can cause physical harm. Social isolation can be as harmful as smoking in some cases, according to a Forbes article, and can even increase the risk of death.
Easy to be lonely
There are plenty of reasons for loneliness to increase as people age. Perhaps someone’s children or grandchildren live elsewhere. Perhaps friends, family members or even spouses have passed away so someone no longer has access to their company.
Even if someone isn’t a senior, physical health changes or a significant injury might limit someone’s sociability and increase the possibility of depression. They may not be able to perform their usual routines or see the same people, even at the grocery store, the gym or the coffee shop.
Home health care can have a useful role in brightening people’s day and replacing diminished social interactions.
An added bonus beyond providing medical care, check-ups and different therapies for different visits is that home health care employees usually are able to offer kind words and a welcome presence. If their schedule permits, many of them enjoy taking the time just to talk.
How to be more social
People who are concerned about loved ones being lonely can do a variety of things to improve their conditions and prevent them being inside by themselves.
- Encourage them to find outlets for socialization. Even if they’re completely house-bound, they can still explore and interact online with people, either through social networking or video chatting.
- If they can go out sometimes with assistance, see if they’re interested in joining support groups in your area. It could be people facing similar medical challenges or life situations. It will put them in contact with people who are going through similar circumstances, who may have info about other community or health resources.
- Assist in finding more companionship. Maybe someone isn’t ready for a full-time caregiver, but they could enjoy the company of a roommate, a family member, even a pet. Home health care caregivers can help with non-medical tasks like transportation, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.
- Exercise. Even if their medical condition limits their ability to exercise like they used to, everyone can benefit from a walk around the block. It gets limbs moving, provides fresh air and beneficial sunlight.
This summer is the perfect time to look for new ways to reduce the loneliness in people’s lives. Longer, warmer days are good reasons to stay outside, whether it’s sitting on the porch or going to a park or somewhere else tranquil.
Plus, mark your calendar for July 11, which is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day. It may not get the same headlines or have all sorts of rituals attached to it as Christmas, Halloween or Easter, but it’s a legitimate holiday, where people are encouraged to go out and make someone’s life better, especially someone lonely.
True, this pattern of behavior should really extend to the other 364 days of the year, but maybe celebrating this day could be the start of something better.
According to Holiday Insights, the day was started by Detroit resident Francis Pesek, who saw so many people who felt forgotten at nursing homes or at their homes, and didn’t have any friends or relatives to check on them. So he chose his birthday as an annual occasion to keep people in mind, and encouraged others to join him.
July is also National Wheelchair Beautification Month, where people can make their chairs be not just functional but fun. There are various ways to improve the look of a chair – maybe insert flowers or other decorations in the spokes, some bright and expressive stickers. Or bring some bright accents or other craft supplies to a local nursing home or community center so residents can beautify their wheelchairs.
If you’re in a chair, use the month’s theme as an opportunity to try something new and feel better at expressing yourself. Or if someone you know is in one, ask if you can do a fun make-over of theirs. People may enjoy being part of this process, plus receive some fun comments afterward when others notice their new enhancements.
Focusing on reducing loneliness can be an ongoing challenge for not just seniors but anyone whose circumstances may have changed, especially those unable to be as social as they used to. But it’s definitely worth the investment for everyone involved. Contact Accredited Nursing for suggestions about ways you can make things more enjoyable for someone you know.