There are many reasons why elderly people can isolate themselves from the outside world. Isolation leads to loneliness, and loneliness leads to isolation. It’s a vicious circle and during the times we are finding ourselves in it seems more apparent than ever.
Since March we have been protecting our senior family members, stay at home, be safe and protect yourself was the message, before lockdown and advice on shielding many elderly people were already lonely and would struggle with the feeling of isolation and maybe feeling sad as life for others carried on without them?
We all thrive on our social environment, dipping in and out as we please but what happens if you don’t have the option. For those in isolation, long-term can lead to mental health issues including depression, anxiety and increased stress and the impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.
One of the immediate issues around isolation is the reduction in physical activity and greater sedentary time, which can impact on mobility and contribute to increased risk of falls in the home.
Most falls do not result in a serious injury, but there's always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, (most common breaks are hips, collar bones and wrists) and it can cause the person to lose confidence. Elderly will become withdrawn, and feel as if they have lost their independence which on top of already feeling isolated it starts to become a real issue.
As we hit the high summer temperatures during this time it’s a fact those living alone do not take on-board enough fluids and it only takes a couple of days for dehydration to kick in, easy signs to recognise, mental functions affected include memory, attention, concentration and reaction time. Common complications associated with dehydration also include low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness and increased risk of falls, but if an elderly person is alone how would we know?
It seems at any time our elderly family members or friends can suffer from feeling isolated and lonely but even more so now. The social interaction has to be a priority for the sake of their mental health and all-round wellbeing.
This now highlights the impact this has on family life, for some normality is slowly beginning to come back, returning to work and very soon children will be filling classrooms again, but what changes for our vulnerable elderly community?