Solutions for Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults During COVID-19
Blog originally published on July 27, 2020. Updated on June 28, 2022.
COVID-19 changed socialization for all of us. However, people with increased health risks (like senior citizens) have faced the most loneliness during these times.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are incredibly strict and have had to cut the social gatherings, community programs, and activities that many seniors relied on for interaction and social connections. While health and safety are top priorities, this isolation poses its own mental health risks for seniors.
Loneliness was already an issue for many older people, and COVID-19 exacerbated the issue. Social isolation significantly increased. Luckily, there are ways to combat isolation and loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Read on to find out more about solutions and care options for older adults feeling socially isolated.
Risks of Social Isolation for Seniors
Did you know loneliness has health consequences? Pandemics are incredibly stressful and the required health precautions can make people feel even more lonely. According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness increases a person's risk for health problems like heart disease, obesity, immunity weakness, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even premature death. Furthermore, unexpected loneliness can have the highest risk, and COVID-19 has certainly prompted unforeseen social isolation and loneliness for many seniors.
How Family Members Can Help
When they partner with health care providers, family caregivers can help combat senior isolation and nurture social relationships in a variety of ways. A weekly visit can make all the difference. However, at certain points in the pandemic, nursing home visitation was limited — especially for seniors at higher risk of contracting coronavirus.
Simply letting your loved one know that the channel of communication is open — and that you are creating a safe place to process the good, the bad, and the ugly — can be more helpful than you could ever imagine. Small acts of kindness are now more important than ever — and could even be lifesaving.
Although so many of us are unable to give a hug or hold hands right now, there are gifts you can give to replicate the sensation of touch and help your loved ones care for their bodies: mini foot spa baths, massage chairs, or microwavable neck pillows are among a few favorites. Consider combining all of these gift ideas and making an "advent calendar," with notes and words of affirmation and encouragement they can look forward to opening each and every day.
Below are some other ways to combat loneliness and social isolation and connect with your elderly family member.
Ways to Combat Senior Loneliness/Social Isolation During COVID-19 & Beyond
Unaddressed loneliness will have serious mental and physical health consequences for older adults. COVID-19 and the social restrictions it prompted have exacerbated loneliness for many older adults. Thankfully, there are many ways to help solve loneliness during the pandemic.
While we cannot always spend time with our loved ones face-to-face, there are other ways to socialize and mitigate feelings of loneliness. Some alternative ways to socialize include:
- Phone calls
- Sending handwritten letters
- Sending voice messages
- Sending photos/ videos of grandchildren, pets, family members, and just daily life
- Social media
- Online chatrooms or groups
- Playing games with others online
- Reading and discussing the same book
- Creating a family scrapbook or other crafts
Multiple studies have shown exercise boosts our mood and helps protect us from depression. Additionally, it occupies our time, which is important when we are feeling lonely. Staying active during the pandemic will be very helpful for seniors. Seniors can stay active right now by:
- Taking a walk outside while practicing social distancing
- Following a virtual exercise classes or online workout videos
Staying Mentally Active
Social interaction is not only a healthy exercise for the brain, it’s necessary. Staying socially engaged with friends and family can prevent memory deterioration and boost self-esteem. Social engagement is crucial for people prone to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Flex your brain by:
- Writing/ journaling
- Working on real or digital puzzles
- Learning a new language
- Exploring the planet with Google Earth
- Reading books
Loneliness and isolation are always serious concerns for older adults, but especially during COVID-19. Implementing the solutions above can help mitigate the risk of loneliness while keeping seniors as safe as possible from health risks.
Stability is key, and predictability gives your loved one something to look forward to. Write down a schedule for these calls or activities you'll both participate in and keep it displayed somewhere they can check for reassurance.
For Compassionate Assisted Living & Senior Care Service Near You, Contact CarePatrol
Does your aging loved one still live in their own home, but say they feel lonely or struggle due to impaired mobility? We can help you find a solution. Many assisted living facilities incorporate safe communal dining, outings, events, and other social/group activities to keep residents engaged. This makes assisted living an excellent option for many seniors.
Worried about assisted living expenses? All CarePatrol senior placement services are absolutely free and come with our promise to help you find the best home for your needs. Assisted living costs are also more affordable than those of many nursing homes. (Often, moving into assisted living can help your family avoid the need for a nursing home altogether.)
At CarePatrol, we're experts at coordinating care, keeping seniors safe, and giving families all the info they need to make smooth transitions from one stage of life to the next. Contact us today for more information about caregiving services near you.