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Loneliness and Old Age: Here’s How to Help

Monday, March 19, 2018 10:46 AM

While you read plenty about the impact of heart disease, stroke and cancer, there’s something intangible that can also have a profound impact on health: loneliness. Research has shown that people who lack personal connections are more likely to suffer from depression, dementia, high blood pressure and heart disease. This is especially true for the elderly.

Lonely Senior

With an aging population, it is a major concern for caregivers and families. Experts say a ‘silver tsunami’ is on the way, a reference to the wave of Baby Boomers who are reaching retirement age.

Rhonda Stein, MD,board-certified in Geriatric and Internal Medicine at NorthShore, offers ways you can help a lonely loved one:

  • A first step is awareness, making sure relatives and friends of those aging alone know the increased health risks and can be the source of needed connections. A network of support is key to connecting the elderly to community resources, provide rides to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store, and regularly check on them.
  • Transportation is a significant issue. If you believe that your loved one is struggling with driving, utilize a driver evaluation program that can lead to elderly patients having their licenses taken away. Family members should know that this can be a difficult conversation and lead to further isolation for the patients.
  • If the care needs of isolated patients are great, it might be a good idea to look in to a Home Health Care program that includes registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and medical social workers. NorthShore’s Home Health professionals become part of a patient’s network, educating family members and other care providers and working together to preserve independence.
  • Another important matter with the elderly is making sure they have an advance directive on file, which can help avoid potentially painful and confusing moments at end of life.

If you know of someone who may be lonely, give them a call today.