Loneliness can make a person feel unwanted and forgotten. Everyone handles loneliness in their own way, but there are some general effects that are a result of loneliness. It is a unique and complex process but is easily treated and prevented.
Loneliness does not necessarily mean living alone. A person can live with other people and still suffer the mental and physical consequences of loneliness. For most elderly persons who live alone, loneliness really is a result of being alone for too many hours in the day; day after day. When illness or lack of transportation are added to the equation, isolation increases loneliness and often brings a feeling of despair.
Medical professionals can attest to the fact that loneliness easily leads to serious health risks and is often missed. Sometimes the elderly exhibit symptoms of loneliness that are blamed on something else. The social disconnection and feeling of emptiness brought on by isolation takes a huge toll on both the mental and physical health of the elderly person.
Some effects of loneliness may include:
- Depression, fatigue, stress, losing the will to live
- Decreased memory and poor decision making
- Increase in alcoholism and general drug abuse
- Altered brain functions and anti-social behaviors
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Raise in blood pressure
- Lowered immune function
It’s vital to understand the effects of loneliness and help to prevent it for your aging loved ones. Always encourage them to take part in social activities for seniors and other community events they would take an interest in. Try to include them in family activities and events so they still feel connected to their family members even though they can’t see them as often.
How to avoid loneliness for seniors
- Encourage them to attend functions that take them outside their home and into the midst of other people
- Make sure they have transportation available to them
- Elder care services can provide them with a companion who will provide transportation, go with them to appointments, help them go shopping, sit and play games with them, listen while they reminisce about the old days etc.
- Get your entire family involved. Take turns visiting your elderly loved one or taking him out for an ice cream cone and a little chat
- Do what you can to keep her involved in activities with groups, clubs and organizations where there are other seniors
- Find out what craft clubs or special interest clubs are in your community and see if you can get her enrolled. Going out and doing something with other people, especially if she has her elder care provider to go with her, will give her confidence and a new lease on life. She will have the opportunity to make new friends.