By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice
Remember when you were 5 years-old and had a tantrum because you DiDN’t WaNt hOtdoGs fOr LUncH, so you decided to throw your Tupperware cup full of lemonade all over the linoleum kitchen floor (or was that just me)? Well, there’s a reason that a ‘timeout’ was probably part of your punishment. As social creatures, humans simply aren’t cut out for isolation—it isn’t fun in the short term, and it can be unhealthy in the long term.
That’s why, if you have a loved one that needs to remain homebound for their own health and safety, it’s important that you make an effort to check on them regularly—because staying safe at home shouldn’t feel like a punishment.
We explain in today’s blog from Integrity Home Care + Hospice.
Aside from the occasional and brief temper tantrum-induced timeout, isolation should be avoided due to its ability to cause significant health issues. A recent article published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine confirmed that the loneliness experienced by those who are socially isolated can increase the occurrence of multiple health risks, including a higher chance of premature mortality—up to a 45% increase among our elderly population. Armed with these facts, we can see a clear need to offer assistance to our relatives and other loved ones experiencing social isolation.
Speaking of assistance—the lack thereof is one of the main concerns for those who are isolated at home. Reaching for an item off a high shelf or carrying a bulky load of laundry from one room to another can pose major safety risks if no one is available to help. Aside from attempting tasks around the house without physical assistance, isolated older adults may also end up missing important health appointments due to lack of available transportation.
And, as we all well know—asking for help is hard (even when we need it most). So, make it a habit to ask your loved ones how you can help, or if there’s anything they need on a regular basis. A simple, “How can I help you today?” can make a huge difference.
Even if there are no immediate household tasks or errands that need to be accomplished, or you, yourself are unable to help with those types of things, you can help in another very important way—with just your presence! Keeping your homebound relatives from experiencing long-term loneliness can be (quite literally) a lifesaver.
John Cacioppo, a social neurologist at the University of Chicago, found that loneliness “impairs immune function, boosts inflammation and can lead to heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even dementia, cancer and fatigue.”
And keep in mind that not all socialization is created equal. Although social media and advances in technology allow us to remain constantly ‘connected’, it’s often a more superficial connection that may not truly combat the negative effects of social isolation. Communicating directly and in-person—where you’re able to hear a voice, see body-language and feel supportive touches—is still the best way to form a deeper connection with your loved one.
Don’t forget the benefits that fresh air can have on the homebound! A recent review of 140 studies on the subject revealed that people who regularly spent time in ‘green spaces’ reported lower blood pressure, lower heart rates and smaller levels of the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol. So, depending on the time of year— bundle up or slather on the sunscreen— and enjoy some outdoor time with your elderly relatives to help naturally combat some of the adverse health effects caused by isolation.
There are many ways to help someone through the challenges associated with being homebound and many compelling reasons why even just your presence can be extremely beneficial to an older loved one or neighbor. But, if you find yourself aware of a situation where help is not available to someone who needs it, give us a call. We’d be happy to find out whether our homecare team would be a good solution and are ready to answer any questions you may have!