2014 National Plan for Alzheimer’s

People with Alzheimer’s disease and their families need supports that go beyond the care provided in formal settings such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, or nursing homes. Families and other informal caregivers play a central role. Supporting people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families and caregivers requires giving them the tools that they need, helping to plan for future needs, and ensuring that safety and dignity are maintained. A care manager, social worker or nurse cab help build strategies and actions that will support people with the disease and their caregivers.

Loneliness Epidemic Predicted in Seniors by 2020

Our Care For Life nurse and social worker always evaluate whether there are signs of loneliness in our aging clients. Gerontologists predict an epidemic of loneliness as our senior population swells to 55 million by the year 2020. They warn that smaller families, a higher divorce rate and inadequate public transportation will combine to increase the number of housebound lonely elderly. Our Care For Life team looks for and makes recommendations to keep our older clients socially engaged and thriving.

Studies show that loneliness is an actual health risk. It is linked to increased blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression, dementia and many other chronic health problems. Dr. John Cacioppo, a leading expert on the topic of loneliness and aging, suggests that social isolation can have a negative impact on a senior’s well-being equal to the effects of smoking or obesity. Here are five ways our in-home care assistance helps seniors meet the challenges in order to stay socially engaged:

  • Challenge: Losing the driving privilege is a huge obstacle for an aging person. Dementia, impaired vision and hearing and/or decreased response time frequently make driving unsafe. The transition from driver to non-driver can be devastating. Having the car keys taken away can lead to depression, anxiety and a loss of motivation to follow medical orders and can lead to serious decline in physical and/or mental status.

Solution: Our caregivers help to preserve mobility and independence by providing transportation to allow our clients to continue church attendance, visits with friends and going to the senior center for social opportunities.

  • Challenge:  When we lose our spouse, other family members or close friends we realize how much our social life was intertwined with theirs. For seniors, the loss of those important to them can result in abrupt and complete isolation. It is important to immediately build new social connections to lower the risk of anxiety, depression and decline.

Solution:  The presence of a caregiver provides a comforting presence and assistance with daily activities. Companionship nourishes the spirit and emotions. Our care managers work with the senior and family to locate new opportunities for socializing.

  • Challenge:  Family members are often live long distances away. They keep in touch with phone calls, email and occasional visits. But when a senior’s needs change, they typically turn to family. For long-distance caregivers, this can be heartbreaking as lonely elders need their help. Even when their children want them to come live closer to them, most seniors prefer to remain in their own home, in their familiar settings, near their old friends.

Solution:  Seniors are enabled to remain safe and independent in their own homes within their established social context. With in-home caregivers, long-distance family members gain invaluable peace of mind knowing their loved one has assistance with housekeeping, meal preparation, medication supervision, personal grooming, and transportation to healthcare appointments. When the in-home caregiver takes over the day-to-day tasks, family visits can focus more on meaningful social time rather than crisis control, doctors’ appointments and a long to-do list.

  • Challenge:  When a stroke, incontinence or memory loss has occurred, it makes it harder for seniors to get around with confidence. Many fear falling, being embarrassed or getting lost. Even healthy seniors experience age-related brain changes that may cause them to lose their way. They may be tempted to spend time alone at home.

Solution:  In-home caregivers are trained to provide compassionate suggestions to promote their clients’ social engagement. They can offer a steady arm and help with wheelchairs and walkers, and all-around positive reinforcement.

It is important to take social withdrawal, anxiety and depression seriously. It is wise to seek professional help if a senior loved one’s symptoms persist. A well-matched caregiver provides emotional and practical support to help them return to their former wellness and social life.

Based on information from collective resources.

Sheryl W. O’Neal
Care For Life, Inc.
Eldercare Advisor