Loneliness can cause significant emotional distress for seniors in Canada, especially during times of increased anxiety. “Being alone” and “feeling lonely” are not necessarily the same, however. Being alone is a physical experience that occurs when a person is not surrounded by other people. Feeling lonely or isolated, on the other hand, is a mental and emotional experience of not having others near you or someone to rely on that could harm an individual’s physical and mental well-being. In fact, social isolation can increase a senior's risk of developing health conditions like cognitive decline, dementia, depression, heart disease, and other ailments.
Did you know that the Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health found that one-third of older Canadians are at risk of being socially isolated while nearly one in give Canadians over the age of 65 say they lack companionship?
Because of the health risks social isolation can cause, families need to recognize when senior loved ones feel isolated and take steps to help them fulfill their need for social interaction and companionship.
Signs Your Senior Loved One May Feel Lonely
Here are some ways families can tell if a senior loved one is experiencing social isolation:
Loss of a Loved One
The loss of a family member, significant other, or close friend can contribute to an emotional and physical downward spiral for seniors. For older adults who have spent a long time together, losing a spouse or friend can be overwhelming. Even years after losing a close friend, family member, or spouse, your loved one may still feel secluded.
Personality and Behavioral Changes
Have you noticed that your senior loved one has started to behave differently? Do they seem significantly quieter, not talk to family and friends as often, don't enjoy their favorite activities much, or make more negative comments about themselves? Have they started experiencing frequent mood swings, forgetfulness, or feelings of apathy? If so, they may be feeling stress caused by social isolation.
Lack of Self-Care
If you notice your senior loved one is beginning to appear more unkempt or their household seems to be messier, they may be struggling with the negative impacts of social isolation and need help. Weight fluctuations, eating less, overeating, or abandoning regular daily routines, such as going for a walk, are also signs they need assistance.
How You Can Help a Senior Loved One Feel Less Lonely
If your senior loved one is starting to become socially isolated, it's important to help them stay engaged with others. The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to encourage them to feel more connected:
Reach Out and Stay in Contact
Although it may seem simple, reaching out to your senior loved one on a regular basis can encourage them to engage in social interaction again and help them feel less alone. Stay in contact and check in with your loved one at least a few times a week to have a meaningful conversation, enjoy a game or meal together, or just to ask how they are feeling and if they need help with anything. If you don't have time to make in-person visits, you can always call your loved one or chat with them on social media.
Adopt a Pet
A pet can be helpful for some seniors who are negatively impacted by social isolation. Pets can be loyal companions and offer some of the same emotional benefits as human interaction. Caring for a pet may also help your loved one develop a routine that helps them stay active and engaged. Of course, not every senior is equipped to handle a pet, so make sure you carefully consider your loved one’s ability to meet a pet’s necessities before encouraging them to adopt a pet.
Find Interesting Activities
Being alone can be challenging for older adults, but there are plenty of activities they can get involved in to improve their mood and overall well-being. For example, they can embrace an old pastime or learn an completely new hobby. If your loved one is having trouble finding activities they enjoy, suggest learning a new one together or asking them to teach you about an old hobby they once enjoyed.
Consider Professional Companion Care from Senior Home Care by Angels
Professional caregivers from Senior Home Care by Angels can help older adults in Canada continue to age in place at home safely and comfortably by providing in-home companion care. This not only includes assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as running errands, light housekeeping, and medication reminders, but it can also help provide the social interaction your loved one needs to avoid feeling socially isolated. Having a compassionate caregiver to accompany them on a walk with or have meaningful conversations can boost their spirits. Even just having a familiar face to see regularly can help them feel less lonely.
Contact your local Senior Home Care by Angels office to learn how our home care services can help your loved one.