Distancing yourself from others is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it can lead to feeling lonely and isolated. Isolation has a significant impact on health, contributing to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and dementia. Although, the world health organization recommends for people to keep socializing at a distance – online or through the phone.
The Impact of Isolation on Senior’s Mental Health
It’s important to consider who is the most at risk and what signs or symptoms to look out for.
Mental and physical health is affected in a good way by positive social interaction. It’s even believed that relationships are a biological need and vital to our well-being and survival. Having a social support network has a significant positive effect on health – many countries even treat loneliness as a health priority.
Some of the mental health risks associated with loneliness and isolation may include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers have also identified links between loneliness and some physical conditions, such as heart disease and breast cancer.
The Most At Risk
Seniors are the most likely to feel isolated from others during social distancing – more than 8 million elderly are affected by isolation.
Senior’s risk for loneliness is higher due:
- children leaving home
- age-related health problems
Major life changes can lead to social ties breaking, which makes it more difficult to socialize.
What to Look For
Certain signs and symptoms can show if isolation is taking a toll on a senior’s mental health, such as :
- feelings of depression and anxiety
- aggressive behavior
- passive attitude
- poor sleep quality
- cognitive decline
- altered memory
- poor self-care or self-neglect
Seniors are more connected than ever – 85% of seniors 65 and older owned a cell phone with 46% of those owning a smartphone. The willingness of seniors to interact with technology can help lower rates of isolation and depression, which can have devastating consequences for senior health.
Top apps for virtual connections
One of the most popular apps for video chatting is Skype. It’s a free app that can be downloaded to a mobile device or a laptop or desktop. The app features HD video, live subtitles, and call recording so that you can relive those special moments caught on video.
FaceTime is specifically for iPhone users and can only be used to call other iPhone users. FaceTime is a free app for video calls, similar to Skype.
Facebook Messenger is available to both Facebook users and non-users. On Facebook Messenger, you can chat, send a video, or make an audio or video call.
How to look after others
With physical distancing protocols in place around the world, the WHO recommend helping people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a good idea to contact members of the community who may be at risk of isolation, loneliness, and health complications.
Knocking on a neighbor’s door and staying a safe distance away, or calling them on the telephone, can remind them that they have nearby support. Setting up regular phone calls or video chats can also help decrease feelings of loneliness.
Sending someone care packages is another way to stay connected. People looking after vulnerable individuals can pick up medications or drop off groceries and other essentials at their doorstep.
Also, although many businesses are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible to find exercise programs, beauty and grooming videos, and courses online. Participating in online activities with other people can promote a feeling of connection and decrease loneliness.
When to seek help
People experiencing loneliness should seek help from a doctor or therapist if they notice any signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression. These may include:
- restlessness or irritability
- persistent worry
- sleeping too much or too little
- an inability to concentrate
- suicidal thoughts
When checking in on someone else, it is worth checking if they are eating, sleeping, and taking care of themselves. If they are struggling, they may benefit from support.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.
Click here for more links and local resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to self-isolate to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, loneliness may have serious health consequences and can exacerbate conditions such as depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Socializing from a distance, such as via online platforms, can help ease feelings of loneliness and prevent its complications, especially for people who are vulnerable.
Anyone experiencing changes in their mental or physical health due to isolation should speak to a doctor.
Entrust of DeSoto: A Resident-centric Memory Care Community in Dallas, Texas
Entrust of DeSoto is a memory care community that puts resident well-being at the center of everything we do. We know that each person is unique. That’s why we offer a wide range of services and lifestyle options to nourish the body and create community.
We understand the importance of home cooked meals and nutrition for seniors and this attitude is reflected in our dining experience. If you or a loved one live near Dallas, Texas and need assisted living, contact Entrust of DeSoto today to learn about our 24-hour care and find out how we can help.