Isolation

The Dangers of Isolation for Seniors



As human beings, we are created to be social. We benefit and thrive when we are interacting with others through various social relationships and networks. These social networks are our families, friends, colleagues, co-workers, etc. Most of us grow to rely on these relationships and networks. They become a large part of our identity and how we enjoy our lives.

As we age, our social networks naturally become smaller due to a variety of reasons. This decrease causes isolation and a resulting feeling of loneliness. This can produce numerous negative effects on an elderly person’s health.  


Here are just a few recent findings by researchers on some of the negative effects caused by isolation:



  • A study conducted by AARP found that 1 out of every 3 adults living in the US indicated that they are lonely.[1]

  • Research has also shown that isolation can have the same negative effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[2]

  • Social isolation in the elderly increases the likelihood of more frequent visits to an emergency room as well as longer hospital stays.[3]

  • Some of the numerous health implications associated with isolation are cognitive decline and mental health conditions such as depression and dementia.[4]


Fortunately, today’s Independent and Assisted living communities offer wonderful options that can offset and remedy the declining social atmosphere of aging individuals. Maine hosts numerous communities that provide this along with many other benefits for seniors.


While aging at home can be the best option for many people, some do choose to move to an independent or an assisted living community, in part for the social benefits they provide.


Over the past year we have enjoyed helping many seniors transition to living communities with outstanding results. We have seen individuals who were once sullen and depressed become stimulated, outgoing and thriving again in their new social environment. Living in a community of one’s peers can help promote a healthy, happy and fulfilled life for you or your loved one.



Jenna Elerick and Jennifer Given – Directors, Coastal Transitions of Maine









 


[1] AARP https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2018/loneliness-survey.html

 

[2] Holt,Lunstad, 2015

[3] Geller et al, 1999

[4] Holwerda, et al, 2012

Gathering, Claiming, Deciding: Helping an Older Relative With Finances After Losing a Spouse

Gathering, Claiming, Deciding: Helping an Older Relative with Finances After Losing a Spouse

No one’s ever really prepared for the death of a spouse. A couple may have discussed it many times, perhaps even planned for it, but the shock of emotional loss and the profound sense of grief just can’t be anticipated. Inevitably, there’s a transition period during which the surviving spouse struggles to cope with what’s happened. Unfortunately, that’s not the only difficult transition to be faced.

There’s also a financial transition that can be confusing and emotionally overwhelming. A devastated and distraught older relative may need help understanding what needs to be done and how to go about it. The help of a younger family member can be invaluable, especially someone who understands what decisions can be put off until things are under control.  

To sell or not to sell

Deciding whether or not to put your relative’s home on the market is a major, life-changing decision that can usually be delayed until after the funeral and after the departed’s estate has been settled. Downsizing can be a liberating act, and selling is certainly a good way to create cash flow to pay for health care costs and other end-of-life expenses, assuming you’ll make a profit, of course. If market conditions are good, other homes in the area are selling, and your family member is ready to downsize, it could be a good time to make this transition sooner than later.  

The will

A will is probably the single most important document, because it proves beyond doubt the veracity of your relative’s claims to assets and other financial resources from their spouse’s estate. It’s a witnessed document that your attorney files as a matter of public record. Contact the attorney’s office to obtain copies if you’re unable to locate it at home. While the estate is being finalized, it also may be necessary to provide a full list of the departed’s assets and holdings, including property, stocks, bonds, savings, real estate holdings, bank and investment accounts, and more. Look for titles, stock certificates, and any other documents that provide tangible proof of the holdings to which your relative may be entitled.


Gather the papers

One of the first and most important steps that needs to be taken is to gather all the paperwork you’ll need to process claims and finalize your loved one’s arrangements. One of the most important of these is the death certificate, an official document the insurance company will need to see in order to process your insurance claim and other benefits. Have several copies on hand, because it’ll be needed many times. These can be obtained inexpensively through your funeral director or from your local county health department.


Social Security

If your relative’s spouse had paid into Social Security for a minimum of 40 calendar quarters, he or she is considered covered. A call to the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213) can confirm your relative’s eligibility. The one-time death benefit pays out a benefit for burial expenses, a process that can be completed at your area Social Security office or through your funeral director. Act on this benefit right away to make sure your relative receives his or her death benefit in a timely manner. Also check eligibility for survivor’s benefits if he or she is 60 or older, a disabled widow age 50 or older, or if caring for dependent children under age 16 or who are disabled.

Insurance policies

Locate paperwork concerning any insurance policies your relative and spouse had together. These are proof of their right to the financial benefits that will be needed to see them through this difficult period. Survivors’ Social Security numbers will also be needed to process claims. Hopefully, these are documents your relative’s spouse kept in a safe deposit box or some other central location. If not, you may need to find them the hard way. This could be a good opportunity to begin decluttering, a process that could help your relative decide whether or not they’re ready to downsize.


Certificates

Be aware that a marriage certificate will be needed if you intend to apply for benefits based on a marital relationship. Copies can be purchased from the county clerk’s office. Your children’s birth certificates will also be needed if they are named as dependents. If you’re unable to locate these, contact the county public health office where your dependents were born.


The death of a spouse leaves a terrible gap in one’s life. Having to deal with the financial aftermath at the same time can be frightening, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Helping an older relative get organized is an important first step, and being in possession of all the paperwork is the best way to get matters under control.


Courtesy of Pixabay.com.


How Seniors Can Stay Healthy

As people get older, healthy aging is important to prioritize. You may have ignored your health when you were younger, but once you hit your golden years, everything changes. Pains that didn’t used to be there, all the old habits catching up to you and more doctor visits and tests. So why not slow down aging by being proactive with your lifestyle? Here are some things you can do to ensure healthy aging.

Use Your Phone to Eat Healthy  

Yes, you read that right. Your phone can help you eat healthy. Thanks to technology, it’s now easier than ever for homebound seniors to eat nutritiously at home. Smartphone apps can help seniors make and stick to healthy grocery-shopping lists. You can even have your groceries delivered to your home or use a meal delivery service. The latter provides you with ingredients to make fresh, wholesome meals. Some services deliver ready-made, healthy options right to your door. You’ll never be stuck with a surplus of unused groceries, and you won’t have to think about what to buy for any recipes.

Join a Senior Center

There are many benefits to being part of a senior center. You can participate in fitness programs that help you stay fit and recreational activities that keep you active and social.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with eating healthy for overall physical health. Although anyone can join a gym to exercise, senior centers have fitness groups led by instructors who understand seniors’ needs. Fun exercises for younger folks might not be suitable for seniors. Senior groups offer safer exercise programs for your age group such as tai chi, yoga, low-impact Zumba and dancing. Beginners can follow along, and you’ll never be pushed to go beyond your limits.

Besides fitness, there’s an abundance of activities at senior centers. Go on non-strenuous outdoor adventures to get some fresh air and sunlight. Play Wii or sing karaoke. Complete jigsaw puzzles or play Monopoly with your friends. Learn to play chess. Attend special events and live entertainment. Take classes in computer literacy or join book clubs. Go on group field trips in town. And of course, there’s always the senior mainstay: Bingo.

Activities allow seniors to exercise their brains and interact with their peers. Mental stimulation is a must in your elder years because your mental faculties need to stay sharp. As long as the motor keep running, the battery will stay on longer. Since loneliness and disconnection affect 40 percent of seniors, socializing is another element of aging that you don’t want to ignore. You might not be around your family as much or see your old friends anymore, but you can meet other like-minded seniors and forge new friendships. There’s always something to do and someone to hang out with at a senior center.  

Reconnect With Loved Ones

Each time we transition into a new phase in life, we tend to shed some of the old. We’ve inevitably lost touch with childhood friends, schoolmates, colleagues, and former neighbors. People move, move on, and change priorities. We typically see more of the people that require little effort for us—the neighbor next door or the lady in aerobics class. Our friends are those who make the most sense in our lives at the time. But the old friend in another town? Maybe it’s been three years since you last saw them. Your sister’s granddaughter? You haven’t seen her since her wedding in 2012.

This is the time in your life to have no regrets or missed opportunities. Reconnect with old friends and distant relatives that you treasure. If they ever mattered to you in the past, they should matter to you now. By putting effort into reconnecting, you’ll get the benefit of emotional fulfillment and socialization.

Some seniors are finally caring about their health for the first time. Others were healthy throughout their entire lives, and now they’re in great physical and mental shape as a senior. If that’s you, don’t stop the momentum now. If you’re new to a healthy lifestyle, now is a great time to start. Give yourself a fruitful and enjoyable retirement by keeping yourself lively everyday, beginning now.


According to the Alzheimer's Association there are 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia. This is an astonishing figure and it is estimated that by 2050, this number will rise to 16 million. While this is a frightening statistics, even if you or your loved one seem to be “forgetful” or exhibit the signs of a decline in cognition, don’t panic...yet.

Thanks to Dr. Maureen Elliott the mnemonic below, DEMENTIA,  can assist your healthcare professional determine the most accurate diagnosis and to see if any of the signs presented are reversible. This is great tool to bring to your appointment. 

 

D- Drug reactions/ interactions

E- Emotional Disorders

M- Metabolic and endocrine

E- Eyes and ears ( blindness, off equilibrium)

N- Nutritional deficits

T- Tumors

I- Infection, pneumonia

A- Atherosclerosis

 

If you have any senior care questions, please feel free to email us at info@coastaltransitionsofmaine.com. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and connect you with resources in the area.