Self-isolating is a good thing when it keeps seniors safe from a harmful virus; after nearly a year, the effects it’s proving to have on their health and quality of life are decidedly not good things.
“It can be very difficult to balance the safety of loved ones living with dementia and the physical and cognitive decline that occur as a result of isolation,” says Winsome McLeod, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Stuart, a Memory Care community in Stuart, Florida. “Luckily, there are ways to identify and mitigate these issues to help boost your loved one’s spirits and make them feel more connected.”
In this post, we’ll explore the impact loneliness and isolation can have on your loved one with memory loss.
Even for people who understand and agree with the social isolation mandates, pandemic fatigue is real. In addition to experiencing depression, fear, frustration, feeling like a burden, and other negative emotions, seniors with dementia who don’t understand why they can’t go certain places or have visitors – may become angry, confused, or sad. They may even accuse their caregivers of lying to them.
Pandemic or no pandemic, loneliness and the cognitive health risks attached to it are higher for seniors. A 2020 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that social isolation was associated with an approximately 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions in older adults.
For aging seniors, factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss can make socializing arduous and staying home appealing. But loneliness can contribute to dementia – which contributes to loneliness. When they begin to experience depression and cognitive decline due to prolonged loneliness, participating in activities and maintaining relationships become even more difficult, and the symptomatic loneliness associated with dementia can set in.
Withdrawal from typical interactions and daily activities may also prevent seniors from getting enough physical exercise. A lack of exercise contributes not only to muscular, respiratory, and cardiovascular problems but also disrupts sleep patterns, which are critical for memory, learning, physical restoration, and emotional health.
In another vicious cycle, isolation can also increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease, stroke, and other inflammatory diseases and conditions like arthritis and IBS – all of which can derail rewarding lifestyles and social connections.
Tips to Combat Social Isolation and Loneliness
If your loved one is withdrawn, agitated, hoarding, depressed or showing other signs of loneliness, here are some ways to keep them socially connected and engaged.
- Get them outside. Being outside in the fresh air can reduce anxiety, improve moods, encourage your loved one to exercise, and allow them to be among – but not too close to – other people.
- Set up virtual visits between your loved one and their friends and family.
- See if counseling is right for them. Seeking counseling is a good option for someone struggling with loneliness and the mental health effects it has on them. Talk to your loved one to see if this is something they would like to pursue to help them cope.
- Exercise with them. Even a little bit of physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression and boost overall health – and having a workout buddy can keep you both motivated.
- Ensure health or sensory issues are not preventing them from socializing. Make sure they can hear and see well enough to interact with others without embarrassment or frustration. Perhaps a trip to the doctor, hearing aids, or a new eyeglass prescription is in order.
YourLife™ of Stuart helps families manage dementia’s challenges. Call us today to schedule a consultation. 772-212-2448
Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As Memory Care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unmatched peace of mind and support for families.
Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence.
Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.
Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call 772-212-2448.