One of the challenges both seniors and caregivers face is how to stay connected with an emotional support system. Research has proven that being isolated from others can negatively impacts both mental and physical health.
For caregivers, isolation often leads to depression. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40% and 70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms for depression. Of those, 25% are considered to be suffering from a major clinical depression.
We now know that isolation is considered to be a health risk for older adults. Seniors who are isolated experience more health problems than their more engaged peers. That includes higher rates of diabetes, obesity, depression and a variety of other illnesses. Being isolated is also linked to early mortality.
What can you do to stay connected if you are an older adult or caregiver?
Here are a few tips for staying connected and healthy to explore:
- Use a video chat service: Skype and other video chat services aren’t just for staying in touch with long distance friends and family members. These services can be a great way to stay connected to others even if they only live across town. A video chat in the midst of a lonely or difficult day can help seniors and caregivers find the emotional support they need. Most are easily accessed from a laptop, iPad or smart phone.
- Social media channels: Facebook is another way to feel connected. If you haven’t joined Facebook yet, this could be a good time to consider doing so. It will allow you to reach out to friends and family and maybe even reconnect with people you have lost touch with over the years. Adults over the age of fifty continue to be one of the fastest growing segments on Facebook. It is easy to set up the Facebook app on a smart phone or tablet device.
- Join an Online Support Group: There are a variety of online support groups dedicated to seniors and caregivers. They give both groups an opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar struggles. These groups can be accessed day or night whenever it is convenient for you to join the conversation. The Family Caregiver Alliance is a good resource to help you connect with a group you will feel comfortable sharing with.
- Friendly Visitor Programs: Many churches, synagogues and religious organizations offer friendly visitor programs. These are typically volunteers who make visits to older adults or those living with a disability that makes it difficult time to get out. They offer the senior the opportunity to socialize and the caregiver a chance for respite.
- Contact the Agency on Aging: A primary reason seniors become isolated is a lack of transportation. When an older adult in the Hoosier state no longer feels safe behind the wheel of a car, staying connected to loved ones and favorite pastimes is more difficult. In most communities, the local Agency on Aging maintains a list of transportation services for older adults. Check with yours to see what is available near you.
Our final suggestion is to consider a respite stay at a Five Star Senior Living community. Seniors who stay with us on a short-term basis will have the opportunity to enjoy the same life enrichment programs and activities our residents do. And their caregivers will have an opportunity to take a break and reconnect with friends.