Winter Brings Isolation for Elderly
Winter weather across much of the country is keeping many people indoors, safe and warm. But sometimes, stir-crazy. Being stuck inside can be a particular problem for seniors who live alone – putting their emotional, mental and even physical health at risk. It more difficult for the elderly to leave without risking dangers like the cold, dangerous driving conditions, ice and frost. It’s also harder for visitors to reach them. Winter weather can also affect senior nutrition, if someone is unable to leave the house and shop for food. Even more distressing is that loneliness and social isolation can occur.
Isolation Effects Health and Nutrition
Isolation in the elderly can lead to some distressing health outcomes, and even increase the risk of death. A recent publication stated, “social isolation has been demonstrated to lead to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults, including increased risk for mortality, dementia, increase risk for re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls.”
1. Be proactive, examine and address health issues. Whether it’s arranging for the delivery of incontinence supplies or making sure your loved one has regular hearing or vision tests. Being proactive with some advance planning regarding seniors’ health can help them feel better on a day-to-day basis. What’s more, it can diminish the social anxiety related to hearing, vision, or continence concerns.
2. Communicate with family, friends and neighbors. If the weather makes it impossible for you to check on your senior loved one as much as you’d like, enlist the help of others who may be nearby and more easily able to visit. Can a neighbor knock on the door and check in? Don’t forget to call or email your loved one often to keep those connections strong even when you can’t visit in person.
3. Utilize senior-friendly services. Can food be delivered? Seniors living alone may be at greater risk of poor eating habits and nutrition when the weather turns nasty. Consider an online grocery service for food deliveries. Or, an organization such as Meals on Wheels, can provide not just nutritious food but social contact.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164