Isolation among older generations is alarmingly common. As many as 40% of older people still living in their own homes report feelings of loneliness and boredom.
Upsetting as this is on an emotional level, isolation also has a physical impact, significantly increasing the risk of poor healthin older people.
Numerous health problems are exacerbated by isolation and loneliness, including an increased risk of falls, dementia and readmission to hospital. The need to help older people remain involved and engaged therefore needs to be a priority in care.
Residential care homes can play an important part in banishing loneliness and isolation
By removing many of the barriers experienced by people struggling to cope on their own at home, residential care homes are in a unique position to help motivate and engage older people by helping their residents make new friends, reconnect with hobbies they enjoyed previously, and experience something new.
Providing a stimulating atmosphere with people to talk to, activities and events to enjoy, and an accessible environment and facilities, with physical support on hand as needed, care homes are well placed to help their residents make the most of the opportunities available.
How care homes can help older people avoid isolation
- Promote a sense of purpose
Older people with a sense of purpose in their everyday activities are less likely to experience depression and succumb to the negative effects of social isolation. Helping people remain active in pursuing their hobbies and interests, and maintaining a regular daily routine can help them maintain their sense of purpose and keep them from becoming isolated and lonely.
- Address incontinence issues
For obvious reasons, anyone experiencing incontinence may be hesitant to go out or become involved in activities and risks becoming isolated. Addressing the issue and sorting out medication and supplies can help reassure them and help restore confidence and self-esteem.
- Facilitate hearing and vision tests
Problems with hearing or eyesight can lead people to start avoiding social situations because of simple embarrassment or difficulties communicating. Facilitating regular hearing and eyesight checks can be a game changer. A new pair of glasses or a hearing aid may be all that’s needed to improve social health.
- Encourage dining with others
Eating with others is inherently social. Encouraging older people to share a meal with others gives lots of opportunities for chat and social engagement, but also has the added benefit of promoting better nutrition which can be easily neglected by older people living alone.
- Give affection
There’s nothing like a hug. Research suggests that friendly gestures such as hand-holding or hugging can bring comfort, lower stress and promote feelings of well-being.
- Provide transportation
Mobility problems and lack of adequate transportation are obvious causes of social isolation experienced by many older people living in their own homes who are simply not able to get out. Providing appropriate mobility equipment and opportunities for trips out, can make a huge difference in helping maintain social connections and a healthy sense of independence.