We all need a little “me time” now and then, a chance to just be alone, enjoy some peace and quiet and relax. But what if that solitary “me time” stretched on for days, weeks, or even months? As much as we might ache for some alone time during our hectic, frazzled lives, the fact of the matter is that social connections keep us engaged and healthy.
For older adults, social isolation is an upsetting, but all too common, part of life. Many seniors have lost spouses and live alone or have children and other family members who live at a distance and cannot easily visit on a regular basis. Others are housebound due to injury or illness or cannot drive to visit friends and family, leaving them prone to loneliness and depression and at higher risk for health problems.
Social isolation is associated with devastating health issues, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, institutionalization, stroke, re-hospitalization, depression, and increased risk of suicide. It has even been linked to faster tumor growth in cancer patients. According to PLOS Medicine, socially isolated seniors are twice as likely to suffer premature death than those who have strong social ties. So what can agencies do to help protect their senior clients from the dangers of social isolation?
Enlighten, Encourage, and Engage
- Enlighten: Families are busy; adult children of aging parents have a lot on their plates between work, children, and home life, and oftentimes, a visit to Mom’s house or even a daily call can get pushed to the back burner. Agencies and caregivers need to enlighten and educate families about the dangers that a lack of social engagement can have on their loved ones. Give them tips that will help incorporate social interaction with their loved ones into their busy lives. A quick Skype session with the grandkids before bed or a visit while waiting to pick the kids up after soccer practice can help the senior feel both loved and engaged.
- Encourage: Prolonged social isolation has the tendency to become habit, and after a while, some older adults may resist going out or even having others over to visit. Part of every caregiver’s job is to provide gentle encouragement that will help the senior push past reservations and remember how good it feels to engage with others. Start slow and spend time conversing with the senior yourself, then work up to a regular outing. Encourage a trip to the local senior center or a church function, and continue to encourage family members, neighbors, and friends to call and visit as well.
- Engage: The monotony of being at home alone 24/7 can be very depressing. Find ways to engage with the senior even if leaving the house is not an option. Play games, read his or her favorite books aloud, listen to music together, find a craft or recipe you can make together, set up a small indoor garden. Keeping the mind engaged in enriching activities is a key part of helping older adults feel less isolated. Social media is another great way to help seniors stay in touch with relatives. Teach clients how to use Facebook and Skype so they can stay connected at all times.
With the prevalence of social media, smart phones, and other digital devices, we often tend to feel as though we are too connected on a day-to-day basis, but that’s not true for everyone in our society. That’s why it’s vital to remember that there are senior clients and loved ones who need our help to stay socially active and mentally and physically healthy.
Want to let your clients know how your home care agency helps seniors stay social and active? Our MOST home care marketing program offers award-winning and eye-catching web resources and marketing materials that highlight your agency’s services. Learn more about our program on the MOST website or contact us today to find out how corecubed can help market your aging care business.