Let’s discuss loneliness. It is one of the most serious health problems facing older people. Age UK estimates that over a million seniors go without speaking to anyone for more than a month.
But, loneliness in the elderly can also affect those who have a support network. People can become isolated when they are suffering from an illness or the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.
Not only does it make people sad but it can also have a long-lasting impact on their mental health. It can cause negative thoughts, low self-esteem, and even depression. It can also lead to health problems. “>High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
A lonely person may feel isolated and find it difficult to reach out. It is important to recognize signs of loneliness in elderly people and to understand what you can do to help.
What is the definition of loneliness?
It is possible to feel lonely at times. Every person’s experience will differ, but they all have the same value.
When our need to be connected deeply with others is not met, we can feel lonely. This is why some people can live happily and others have to struggle.
Senior citizens may seem to be active in their social lives, spending time with friends, family, and community groups. They can feel lonely if they aren’t valued or understood by those around them.
What is the cause of feelings of loneliness?
Loneliness can be caused by many things, some of which may not even be obvious. There are many factors that could put elderly people at higher risk.
Chronic illness and loneliness
People can feel an inability to socialize or share time with others due to chronic illnesses such as pain, discomfort, embarrassment, and embarrassment.
Some people worry that their friends and family will see only their situation, instead of the person they really are.
The effects of loneliness on your physical health can be devastating. It can affect the function of your immune system and increase the risk of developing heart disease. It can make chronic illnesses worse or slow down recovery.
Loneliness and grief
When someone turns 90, it’s very likely that they have lost a friend, a family member, spouse, or a beloved pet.
An older person may feel alone even with their family.
Stress is closely linked to grief, which can make an older person more susceptible to illness.
Loneliness and hearing loss
It can be difficult to socialize with others due to hearing loss. This can affect a person’s confidence over time.
People can withdraw from others when they are stressed about not being able to communicate with them.
Older people may experience loneliness
Changes in appetite
It could indicate loneliness if a loved one begins to eat less or is not interested in food.
Overeating can also indicate loneliness since the feeling of emptiness when you are alone can sometimes be mistakenly interpreted as hunger.
Sometimes, loneliness can manifest as anger, especially in older people who feel ashamed of feeling alone but too proud to share their feelings with their loved ones.
People can feel lonely if they are misunderstood or left out of the decision-making process.
Anger does not always manifest as anger in the form of yelling or being argumentative. A loved one might become quiet, disengaged, or otherwise be negative
A study found that loneliness can disrupt sleep patterns. People who feel lonely may experience a shorter period of quality sleep and more insomnia symptoms, such as difficulty falling asleep or feeling tired and irritable.
Socially isolated loved ones may want to spend more time in bed.
Increased purchasing habits
Studies have shown that lonely people tend to shop more and spend more money on items they don’t use. If your loved one has changed in their shopping habits, it could indicate that they are lacking social connections and are seeking out activities.
Take more hot baths
Many people associate warmth with comfort. This is why so many seniors will turn to warmth for comfort when they feel lonely.
A sign of loneliness could be taking more hot showers or taking the heating off in warmer months.
Use of the internet is on the rise
Although we might think of the internet as a wonderful way to keep connected with our tech-savvy loved ones, when it becomes the only way an older person can connect with others, it can be a sign of loneliness.
An Australian study showed that older adults who feel isolated and use the internet to make contact with others, such as via Facebook or social networks, have a higher level of emotional loneliness.
How to help someone who is lonely
It’s best to take it one conversation at a time
It is difficult to talk about loneliness. It can be embarrassing or even painful for an older person to feel alone as they age.
Although it may seem small, being there for them when they need you, or reassuring them that things will get better, can make a huge difference in how your loved one feels.
Pets can be a great help in loneliness
Older people can feel responsible for another living being through the companionship of their pets.
Research by the Blue Cross shows that spending time with animals can reduce blood pressure and relieve emotional pain. The charity advocates that care homes have a pet policy so that seniors can bring their pets to them.
There are many organizations in the UK that offer pet therapy sessions if your loved one is unable to take care of a pet full-time. These include Petpals, Wag and Company, and Canine Concern.
Techniques for CBT to help lonely people
The NHS uses cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which helps to reduce anxiety and depression. It identifies and rationalizes negative thoughts and then reduces anxiety.
Research shows that simple CBT exercises such as writing down thoughts, feelings, and breathing techniques, along with relaxation techniques, can help those who experience loneliness later in life.
CBT is not right for everyone. It’s important that you seek the guidance and support of a healthcare professional.
Social support and groups
Because loneliness is so common, there are many groups across the UK that help seniors connect.
Local councils and organizations like Age UK are great resources to find a group your loved one will enjoy, from coffee mornings to craft networks to church groups.
If your loved one is more comfortable speaking to someone outside of their family, befriending services may also prove useful in combating loneliness. These services pair them with a “call companion” for weekly phone chats.