Little girl giving her grandfather a Christmas presentAccording to a study published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, senior isolation can lead to poor health outcomes like increased injury risk and dementia. Many people experience loneliness, especially around the holidays. It’s important to visit our loved ones living alone or in a skilled nursing facility to prevent social isolation. What steps can your family take?

1. Encourage Participation

If your loved one lives at a skilled nursing facility, there are plenty of opportunities to be social with other residents. At West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center, we have a monthly recreation calendar of events including exercise classes, religious services, concerts, holiday craft fairs and parties. Encourage your loved one to attend these events, which are designed to provide the best possible experience for residents and a sense of belonging.

2. Make Wellness Calls

Make regular house calls or nursing home visits to check on the health and wellbeing of your loved one. When aging seniors live alone, they can become lonely and depressed from a lack of regular human contact. As a result, the living space could suffer – you may find expired food or neglected garbage in the home.

At a skilled nursing facility, it’s important to check for signs of abuse that could be making your loved ones more isolated than ever before. If you suspect any mistreatment, it should be reported right away.

3. Address Any Issues

If your loved one has a reason for staying isolated, be a good listener. Hear the concerns, whether it be an incontinence or balance issue, and offer to help. For instance, he or she may be hesitant to go out due to the risk of falling. One solution could be the use of a walker or wheelchair for support when traveling in public. Safety is number one but with a mobility aid, your loved ones can continue to participate in their favorite activities.

4. Use Technology

Does your aging family member live too far away for a holiday visit? A great gift to send could be a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Keep in touch throughout the year via Skype, FaceTime or other form of video chatting. Use technology that goes beyond a traditional phone call, so your loved one gets the sense of being surrounded by family and friends.

5. Find a Purpose

Oftentimes, seniors who have lost a spouse or close friend become lonely living on their own – or even in a nursing home. Having a hobby or something to watch over can help combat those depressed feelings.

Depending on the rules of your loved one’s nursing facility, he or she may be able to keep a pet. If not, something as simple as having a plant to care for can provide the sense of purpose that might be missing.
West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center is a community resource for your questions about senior living. If your loved one is socially isolated, contact us for support!