Understanding the Difficult Side Effects of COVID-19: Isolation & Loneliness in the Elderly
As the world goes in and out of lockdown, restrictions ease and tighten. Sometimes, it feels safe to see friends, family and other loved ones, but at other times, it feels risky, and staying at home appears to be the safest option for the elderly. The uncertainty around these days’ unusual circumstances combine with the recommendation to stay at home, which can inspire feelings of isolation and loneliness.
As the most elderly members of our community are at the highest risk of serious COVID-19-related illness, they have been received the strongest advice to stay at home. This recommendation means that the effects of isolation and loneliness in the elderly have the potential to be just as serious as COVID-19 itself.
Though our CareAngels are present and available for all of the individuals and couples in our care, we recognise that we cannot take the place of an entire community. So, we offer this article as a resource to anyone who might be feeling the effects of isolation and loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the Difference Between Isolation and Loneliness in the elderly?
Loneliness and isolation in the elderly are two very different experiences.
Social isolation is a physical state. It applies to individuals who stay at home most or all of the time, on their own, as a way to avoid socialising with others.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation is an unfortunate and temporary way of life for many people. At the current moment, the elderly are asked to isolate as well as some people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Still others choose to isolate in order to feel safe.
No matter the reasons behind a person’s social isolation, it can lead to some difficult emotions. Isolated people often feel sad and restless, which can lead to irritability and anger. If someone is predisposed to mental health issues like anxiety or depression, isolation can exacerbate the condition. As well, isolation can lead to loneliness.
Loneliness is an emotional state, and for some, it can be very complex. Loneliness can make people sensitive to rejection, and it can also lead to pervasive feelings of anxiety. Physical health problems can also stem from loneliness.
What Health Problems Can Result from Isolation and Loneliness?
Both physical and psychological health problems can result from isolation and loneliness. The connection between mind and body is well-established, so one will often have an effect on the other. A healthy, nourished mind enables a person to give the body what it needs to feel well, and this certainty applies to everyone.
Sleep can suffer when someone is experiencing loneliness. Restorative sleep is essential to good health, and loneliness can impact a person’s ability to sleep properly and restfully. Without good sleep, the brain loses its ability to function at its best. Our overnight CareAngels can provide nighttime support and reassurance that helps you and your loved ones sleep as well as possible. Whether from a nearby bedroom or a seat at your bedside, we can stay with you throughout the night to make sure you are as comfortable as possible and aware that a CareAngel is close by in case any sudden needs arise.
As well, loneliness can lead a person to feel as if looking after oneself is no longer necessary or useful. Daily exercise and healthy eating habits may fall to the wayside, and a person may begin to neglect their own personal hygiene. The sense of self-neglect can descend into shame if not interrupted, which makes a person more susceptible to a cycle of challenging feelings of self-doubt and humiliation. Our companionship care services attend to these personal needs, so we can help prevent these kinds of negative feelings from developing. All of our compassionate CareAngels can help you and your loved ones to get appropriate physical exercise, and we can provide a helping hand or two when it comes to other important matters of self-care.
Want to Know More About Isolation and Loneliness and the elderly?
Are you worried about yourself or a loved one? If you want to learn more about isolation and loneliness and perhaps find out how you can get help, please contact any of these health resources for advice.
Reach out to your local GP surgery
Please contact your GP if you are concerned and need advice. The doctors and nurses at the surgery know how to help or how to refer you to help if you need it.
Find a licensed mental health professional to talk to
Many websites have search engines that enable you to locate a licensed therapist or other mental health professional near you. Try the counselling directories at Psychology Today, the BACP website, or GoodTherapy.org and speak with a therapist over the phone before making an appointment.
Try any of these COVID-19 support lines.
The British Red Cross can be reached at 0808 196 3651 and other COVID-19 support lines are available locally. Contact your local council for more information.
Find support at any of these mental health charities
Please know that we are also here for you and your loved ones should your home care needs intensify or change. The doors to our Guardian Angel Carers offices are open, and we are looking forward to speaking with you about the ways we can offer you and your loved ones a little extra support during this difficult time.