02 Dec The Negative Effects of Isolation in Seniors
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Charmaine and the staff at Senior Living Consultants
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Since the coronavirus pandemic began almost 9 months ago, seniors have experienced more isolation than ever before. The majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are in people 65 years old and over so it is understandable that older adults adhere to quarantine guidelines to protect themselves from getting sick. Unfortunately, all this isolation is having negative health consequences for seniors. A National Institutes of Health study concludes the main mental and physical effects reported by older adults from social distancing include: anxiety; depression; poor sleep quality; and physical inactivity.
Tips to Combat Isolation
- Check-in. Call or text a family member or friend several times a week. Or ask them check-in with you. This will give everyone more peace of mind. It is always better to have a phone conversation to hear someone’s voice and truly connect with them.
- Reach-out. If you haven’t spoken with a friend or family member for a while, give them a call. Now is a great time to catch up with people you have previously lost touch with. To avoid any awkwardness, first send them a text or e-mail asking when it would be a convenient time to talk.
- Schedule a visit. At most assisted living facilities in San Luis Obispo County, residents are able to visit with their family and friends outside on the lawn or courtyard of the facility. However, residents are advised to limit leaving facilities for lunch/errands or to go back to a family member’s home for a social visit. One of our clients cuts her mom’s hair and gives her a manicure outside on the lawn of her assisted living residence on a regular basis. It’s a great way to help her mom feel good and they both enjoy the time spent together.
- Take a drive. Getting out a few times a week is important for your mental health and well-being. Take a short drive on your favorite scenic route or ask someone else to drive with you–but make sure you are both wearing masks.
- Get moving. Exercise everyday to decrease stress and anxiety, boost your mood, and increase energy. If weather permits, take a walk outside, or do some simple exercises while sitting in a chair.
- Give a helping hand. Since you are unable to volunteer in-person at this time, there are other ways you can help your local community which will also help you feel good during isolation. For example, you can donate non-perishable food and new, unwrapped toys for children. In San Luis Obispo County (click on link below for drop-off locations), there are many opportunities to donate items. To keep safe, order donations online.
Going Out? Lessen Your Risk
Isolation is difficult for all age groups. However, seniors need to assess their own individual risk factors and if it is worth venturing out. Remember, even if you don’t have any underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, being 65 and older puts you in a higher risk category. To lessen your risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the following suggestions:
- Visit with your friends and family outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open windows or doors) and large enough to accommodate social distancing.
- Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart from each other.
- Consider activities with grandchildren where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games.
- Try to avoid close contact with your visitors. For example, do not shake hands, elbow bump, or hug. Instead wave and verbally greet them.
- If possible, avoid others who are not wearing masks or ask others around you to wear masks.
- Consider keeping a list of people you visited or who visited you and when the visit occurred. This will help with contact tracing if someone becomes sick.