Uncategorized | September 6, 2022
Recovering from a health episode that lands you in the hospital can be challenging for the best of us, but for seniors who are socially isolated and fighting with loneliness, readjustment can be especially tricky loneliness and isolation just may increase the odds that they will end up returning to the hospital with a recurring health episode.
Researchers continue to prove that social isolation and loneliness can negatively affect physical health, not just mental health. Studies have shown that isolated seniors have higher blood pressure than their peers and are more likely to be admitted to nursing care facilities and assisted living as a result of poorer health. It’s not just being lonely that can have high negative repercussions either; the simple act of feeling lonely is correlated with higher rates of dementia in senior adults and with early death.
Loneliness and social isolation can exacerbate chronic conditions, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes, as well as making recovery that much more difficult. In one study, researchers found that socially isolated older seniors were nearly twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital after a heart attack than those seniors who were socially integrated.
Strategies to reduce loneliness are far more successful when the senior adult actively takes part in planning and implementing the activities.
The implication is that treating older adults’ social circumstances and mental health may help increase their chances of successful recovery. Family, friends, and caregivers should be particularly conscious of the levels of engagement and older adults’ moods when they return home from the hospital. During the recovery stage, regular interactions with the senior, such as enjoying daily meals together or helping the senior with daily life activities, can help alleviate the sense of isolation that can be a product of illness. As the senior recovers, encouragement and support of activities with friends, family, and within the community can help prevent social isolation.
Senior adults who have no nearby family, family or do not have a solid social network may benefit significantly from in-home care services and other companionship services. In-home caregivers can give senior adults the support they need to reintegrate into society, reassume many activities they previously enjoyed, or encourage them to try new ones. They can also assist them with transportation, thereby removing this physical barrier to social activities. These types of engagements not only help seniors manage everyday activities but also aid them on the road to recovery and increased quality of life.
Hawkley, L.C. and Cacioppo, J.T. (October 2010). Loneliness matters A theoretical and
empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Ann Behav Med. 40(2). doi:
10.1007/s12160-010-9210-8. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874845
Reblin, M. and Uchino, B.N. (March 2008). Social and emotional support and its implication for
health. Curr Opin Psychiatry, 21(2): 201–205. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f3ad89.
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729718
Shulevitz, J. (May 13, 2013). The lethality of loneliness: We now know how it can ravage our
body and brain. The New Republic. Retrieved from
Windle, K., Francis, F. and Coomber, C. (October 2011). Preventing loneliness and social
isolation: Interventions and outcomes. SCIE Research Briefing 39. Retrieved from
Online version: http://www.comfortkeepers.com/home/info-center/articles/best-way-torecove