Isolation & Loneliness in the Elderly – A side effect of Covid-19

After almost a year of Covid related restrictions, isolation and loneliness in the elderly is a too common story. Sometimes it feels safe to see friends and family, but at other times it feels too risky, so staying at home is the safest option available for everyone. The uncertainty around these unusual circumstances combined with the recommendation to stay at home can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for us all but this is particularly exaggerated for the elderly who are being told to shield.

As the elderly community members of Staines-upon-Thames are at the highest risk of serious COVID-19-related illness, they have received the strongest advice to stay at home. Although this recommendation is needed, it could also mean that the effects of isolation and loneliness in the elderly have the potential to be just as serious as COVID-19 itself.  

Though our carers are present and available for all individuals and couples in our care in Spelthorne, Runnymede and Elmbridge, we recognise that we cannot take the place of an entire community. So, we are offering this article as a resource to anyone who might be feeling the effects of isolation and loneliness.

What is the Difference Between Isolation and Loneliness in the elderly?

Loneliness and isolation in the elderly are two very different experiences and this is something everyone needs to be aware of.

Social isolation is a physical state. It applies to individuals who choose to stay at home most or all of the time on their own to avoid socialising with others. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation is unfortunately a temporary way of life for many people at the moment. Currently the elderly and vulnerable are asked to isolate, while others who are not considered vulnerable choose to self isolate to avoid the risks.

No matter what the reason is behind a person’s choice to isolate themselves, it can lead to some very difficult emotions. Isolated people often feel sad and restless which can often lead to irritability and anger. If someone is predisposed to mental health issues like anxiety or depression, isolation can exacerbate the condition. 

This then lends itself to feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is an emotional state and can be very complex. Loneliness can make people sensitive to rejection as well as leading to pervasive feelings of anxiety. Physical health problems can also stem from loneliness. 

What Health Problems Can Result from Isolation and Loneliness?

Isolation and loneliness can result in both physical and psychological health problems. The connection between the mind and body is well-established, so one will usually have an effect on the other. A healthy and nourished mind enables a person to give the body what it needs to feel well.

Insomnia

A common issue which many people can suffer from when experiencing loneliness is lack of sleep and or insomnia. Without quality sleep, the brain loses its ability to function at its best. Our overnight carers can provide nighttime support and reassurance that can help you or your loved ones sleep better. 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 keep you reassured that a CareAngel is close by in case any sudden needs arise.

Loneliness can also lead a person to feel as if looking after oneself is no longer necessary or useful. Daily exercise and healthy eating habits may be a thing of the past 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 in Staines helps to provide for emotional needs which in turn help prevent these kinds of negative feelings. All of our compassionate CareAngels at the Spelthorne branch can help you or your loved ones to get appropriate physical exercise and provide a helping hand or two when it comes to other important matters of self-care. 

Want to Know More About Isolation and Loneliness? 

Are you worried about yourself or a loved one? If you want to learn more about isolation and loneliness in the elderly and 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 in Staines-upon-Thames to talk to.

Many websites have search engines that enable you to locate a licensed therapist or other mental health professionals 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.

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. 

Please know that we are also here for you and your loved ones should your home care needs intensify or change. Our Guardian Angel Carers Spelthorne office is open and can be contacted on 01784 611611. 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.