The toll loneliness plays on the elderly
If you ask someone to tell you what loneliness is, they probably imagine a time when they felt lonely and share the story of what it felt like. We’ve all certainly had those moments of feeling depressed by being alone. But what about those who are not alone but still feel lonely? “Loneliness can be explained as the discrepancy between one’s desired relationships and one’s actual relationships.” (source)
It can be due to a lack of companionship but it’s more likely associated with a lack of connection with those who are around. As one ages, these feelings intensify. Losing loved ones and being physically limited heightens those feelings of isolation.
Geriatricians at the Universityof California, San Francisco, spent 6 years studying adults age 60 and over “attempting to quantify the feeling of loneliness.” They published their findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday [June 18th]. In the longitudinal study, nearly 44% of the 1,604 participants reported some loneliness in 2002 and the finding remained nearly unchanged over the next 6 years.
According to lead study author, Dr. Carla Perissinotto, what changed was the health status of those who reported feeling lonely. By 2008, nearly 25% of them reported declines in their ability to complete basic daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating, etc. “Among those free of loneliness, only 12.5 percent reported such declines.” Perhaps more disturbing was the finding that those in the lonely category, even when the findings were adjusted for discrepancies, were 45% more likely to die “than seniors who felt meaningfully connected with others.” (source)
So, how to help Grandma? The study writers hope by focusing on “policies that promote social engagement and, more importantly, helping elders develop and maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships” the decline can be changed.
So, why not give grandma a call, take her out to lunch, help her get to church or work with an agency such as Family Private Care to bring an assistant in to watch for signs of loneliness. Just a few simple steps might improve everything she does. (source)