Loneliness and Depression in Senior Care | myNEXUS®

08 . 10 . 2020

Senior loneliness

“But nothing makes a room feel emptier than wanting someone in it.”
― Calla Quinn, All the Time

Loneliness is a real and potentially dangerous part of the human condition. Throughout our lives, we find ourselves alone from time to time, but that aloneness is a much different state than the feeling of loneliness that so many are burdened with. Especially when the world is saddled with safety measures against the COVID-19 pandemic which forces us not only to be alone most of the time but also distant and covered when we’re around other people.  However infrequently, it is vital to our mental and emotional health that we continue to maintain a connection with the things that give us purpose. For those living with mental health conditions, or those who are entirely homebound and cut off from family due to weakened immune systems, the creeping loneliness that can find its way into their lives can pose a real threat to their health and wellness.

Symptoms Are All in the Details

In the United States, October brings mental health awareness month, and October 8th is National Depression Screening Day. Unfortunately, the education around depression can be limited, and Mental Health America1 has even cited near 68% of American seniors are lacking in their knowledge about depression, its symptoms, and when and where to seek help. In a time of global turmoil, it’s not surprising that the signs of depression have become much more commonplace. Symptoms of depression can range from the emotional:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irrational reactions or angry outbursts
  • Feeling sad, unhappy, or empty
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

To the physical:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Unexplained pain
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • Anxiety or restlessness

And may look different depending on age. Seniors may experience constant fatigue and general irritability as symptoms. Loneliness in the senior population (especially homebound seniors) is not only damaging to health and recovery times but also can quickly spiral out of control if not identified as a cause of depression.

Addressing Life’s Phases

Life is often broken up into phases, and we spend a lot of time in transition as younger people. When the time comes after retirement and life begins to slow down, these transitions (loss, isolation, illness, mobility issues, etc.) become more difficult to navigate as we age and inherently become less mobile, active, and engaged in our surroundings. Fortunately, there are some ways that families and caregivers can help seniors maintain good mental health and mitigate loneliness during the day to day. These activities include:

Paying attention to seniors’ mental wellness is a vital part of ensuring that they continue down the path of healthy aging and can help with healing from falls, illness, and/or injuries. Catering to seniors’ interests, involvement in communities, and communication with family and friends (if possible) can help caregivers to ensure longevity and quality of life are part of a healthy aging process.

Seek Help Often and Quickly

If you suspect you or someone you love is struggling with loneliness or depression, taking small steps can help to manage depression and eliminate loneliness. With something to look forward to, like a volunteer day or a visit from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, the days cease to run together, and it creates events throughout the week to stay engaged.

Don’t wait!

If you need immediate assistance: NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Health has a 24-hour helpline: 800-950-6264 which you can call to talk to an advisor. For more wellness and home health content, please take some time to browse our library, specially created for you.

References:  

  1. https://www.mhanational.org/depression-older-adults-more-facts
  2. https://www.nursenextdoor.com/blog/4-ways-to-alleviate-senior-loneliness-depression/
  3. https://www.ajmc.com/view/preventing-loneliness-among-the-senior-population-during-the-covid19-crisis
  4. https://vantageaging.org/blog/effects-of-senior-isolation/
  5. https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-loneliness-tips-for-seniors/
  6. https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/senior-isolation-facts