No one likes the thought of an aging parent being lonely. Even more concerning is when that parent lives alone and may go for days without any significant human interaction.
Social isolation and loneliness among older adults is more common than you might think. A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) report found that almost a quarter of adults over the age of 65 are “socially isolated”.
Of course, when dementia is an added factor, the impact from social isolation can be even more pronounced. Many of the issues are physical as well as emotional.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites various studies which help explain the serious impact of prolonged loneliness on older adults as follows:
- Social isolation significantly increased the risk for premature death from all causes. It is a risk that could rival risks due to smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
- Social isolation can increase the risk of developing dementia by 50%.
- The lack of social relationships evolving from isolation and loneliness has been linked to a 32% increase in the risk of stroke.
- Higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide have links to loneliness.
How can these risks be lessened?
The importance of social interactions cannot be overstated. Numerous studies point to the advantages of person-centered care for individuals living with dementia. Dr Douglas Brown, director of research and development of U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society, collaborated on one such study. In a Healthline article Dr. Brown stated that, “A person-centered approach takes into account each individual’s unique qualities, abilities, interests, preferences, and needs. This study shows that training to provide this type of individualized care, activities, and social interactions can have a significant impact on the well-being of people living with dementia in care homes.”
This is one of the reasons that we take very seriously the training, experience, and genuine compassion of those we bring into our communities to care for our valued residents at our Anthem Memory Care communities.
If you are caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, it is important for them to have human interactions throughout the day, ideally with more than one person, to help stimulate their brains and keep them as connected to those around them as possible.
While you may be able to achieve this through an in-home living arrangement for the time being, the time may come when your loved one will benefit more from an environment built to serve the unique needs of those with dementia.