Some people like living alone. After decades of taking care of children, grandchildren, and a spouse, a widow, widower, or divorcee might report that they prefer the solitary lifestyle. However, when an older person who is living alone starts to feel lonely, it’s important to help them make connections so that they don’t experience the mental and physical decline that can result from loneliness. If you want to put off nursing home care as long as possible, helping your parent overcome loneliness could be one way to do it.
Signs That Your Elderly Loved One Is Lonely
It might be hard for a proudly independent senior to admit that they would like more social interaction, even when they do realize that they are feeling lonely. However, many seniors and their family members don’t realize that the sadness and lack of motivation they are feeling are caused by loneliness. As a loved one or caregiver, look for the following signs that an elderly person might be suffering from loneliness:
- Over-dependence. An obvious sign of an older person’s loneliness is clinginess and difficulty separating from visitors and family members. Frequent calls and invitations, stalling when it’s time for a visitor to leave, and asking for help with easy tasks are good signs that your loved one is bored and lonely.
- Hostility and resentment. Some older people have the opposite response to loneliness. Instead of being clingy, they are openly hostile, offensive, and mean. If these are uncharacteristic behaviors in your parent or grandparent, it could be a sign that they are simply lonely.
- Avoiding daily chores. Rather than keeping busy with household chores, a lonely person might give up on cleaning, getting the mail, taking out the trash, and even getting dressed. If your loved one is having trouble completing ordinary tasks, it could be because they are lonely.
- Excessive shopping. For some people, shopping—even online shopping—can provide a hit of dopamine that lifts them out of a depression, at least temporarily. Going out to stores and interacting with salespeople might make them feel less lonely. If your loved one is making excessive purchases, look for other signs of loneliness.
- Overuse of social media. Are you suddenly seeing a lot more Facebook activity from your mom or dad? Social media can provide a false sense of belonging and human interaction for lonely people. If you see that your parent is engaging with posts, sharing posts excessively, and spending a lot of time on their computer or smartphone, it could be because they are lonely.
Identifying loneliness is the first step toward helping your elderly loved one. Once you establish that they are lonely, you could set up a visitation schedule for family members and friends, help your mom or dad find new communities to join, locate volunteer opportunities—some of which may be online or over the telephone—to keep them busy and connected, or plan a trip with them in the future so that they have something to look forward to. An adult activity and day care center could also be a solution.
Why It's So Important to Help Your Elderly Loved One Combat Loneliness
Loneliness has been linked to both physical and mental health problems in older Americans. It makes sense that lonely people feel sad, but research tells us that they also experience more complications from physical conditions as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown that people over the age of 50 who are socially isolated are at an increased risk of:
- Premature death from all causes
- Heart disease
- Depression, anxiety, and suicide
- Death, hospitalization, and ER visits among heart failure patients
These risks increase by 50 percent or more among lonely people.
Are You Looking for a Medicaid Planning Attorney in Texarkana, TX?
For some people, the solution to social isolation, poor care, and loneliness could be moving into an assisted living or nursing home facility. Qualifying for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home requires informed advice and proactive steps. If you are looking for Medicaid Planning advice, you need to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903-223-5653. We also have offices in Tyler, Paris, and Longview, as well as Magnolia, AR.