Isolation is a growing issue in our society. Isolation is being chronically alone with no support.
Many cultures function as a family unit, and as family members advance in age, they are incorporated into the daily life of younger generations. Senior living, assisted living, and nursing homes are not options in those cultures.
For other families, members spread out to various parts of the country or even to other countries. Members no long live in the same community where they can care for each other. Or, members might live close together but have busy schedules that hamper time together. Then, there are instances when there are no family members to provide care. Perhaps friends have their own needs and are unable to be supportive.
Risks of Isolation
Isolation is sometimes a gradual situation, as it gets hard to get out and about. Other times, an injury or medical event rushes someone from an active lifestyle to a homebound situation.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many examples lately of medication changes that led to sudden isolation. These medication changes cause dizziness, sedation, nausea, diarrhea, incontinence, or some other side effect that made it hard to leave the house. Often people don’t recognize the link to the medication change. Many people try to ‘live with it’ and consider it a new normal.
Isolation is not good for your health. It is not good for your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health. Through many studies and experiences of people of all ages, the negative effects of isolation are many! Some of the most common are:
- Increased blood pressure (due to more stress hormone production)
- Higher reaction/perception of stress
- Heart disease
- Decline in thought processes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Increased suicide rates
A concept considered in these blogs before is that we all need to be needed. Isolated people suffer from sensory deprivation, lack of social interaction, and that important concept of being needed. Total lack of interaction can actually play with your mind leading to loss of time perception and even hallucinations.
So, how do we help people avoid this isolation?
There are a number of different kinds of living communities for adults over 55. These include independent living, assisted living, dementia care, and more skilled care. All aspects of care are integrated into one community with a wide range of activities to engage all interests. These are designed to avoid isolation. If you are living alone and feeling isolated, consider the many senior living options in your area. [We can help you find a professional to show you the local options and help you through the process.]
If you don’t think your budget will allow a community option, or if you really don’t want to leave your home, there is another low-budget, high-reward option. You are not the only person feeling isolated. You have two primary responses.
Be resentful and hopeless ==> takes you down a negative, unhealthy path
Reach out to others ==> you and those you reach will both win!
There are SO MANY people feeling isolated. And, as our population ages and the culture continues to change, the numbers are rapidly growing. Finding someone else in a similar situation can be a solution for both. Calling to check on each other, remind each other to take medication, and just share life can be so healing.
I have been marveling at a member of our church. She had an accident riding a horse and is now paralyzed. She has very limited use of one hand, just enough to operate a special wheelchair. She can’t type, drive, dress herself, or fix her hair. So many in her situation would experience the symptoms listed above. She went from living life fully functional to loss of most functions in one incident. (Now, I’m sure she has had some very low moments.) Overall, she is hopeful and finding new ways to live a full, fulfilled life. One of the things she is pursuing is training as a ‘Stephens Minister’. This will put her in the first line to help other members of the church during a time of distress. The main pastors can’t always get there immediately, so the Stephens Ministers can be first responders. I’m sure she will encounter hurdles that she will need to overcome, but she is putting herself out there to continue to be needed and avoid the deep depression and isolation that could so easily consume her.
So, if you can make a phone call, answer a phone call, type a message, let someone in the door to visit, there are some important, exciting ways you can be fulfilled, needed, and avoid isolation.
We would love to help you figure this out. If you are feeling isolated and aren’t sure what to do, please contact us at www.medsmash.com or 410-472-5078 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we will help you avoid isolation in ways that inspire and fulfill you.
For further application, check out my personal blog.