Elder Health and Loneliness in California

rt_k9r80pya-jean-gerber-300x200For California seniors, one factor that may impact health is loneliness, according to a recent article from NPR. While cases of elder neglect and nursing home abuse can result in serious personal injuries to seniors, such incidents can result in even more substantial injuries if the older adult is already in poor health. Poor health conditions can be dramatically exacerbated by nursing home neglect, for example. According to the article, isolation is a serious underlying issue that affects the health of older Americans, and it is important to find ways to reduce the loneliness or isolation that seniors may experience.

Researchers Emphasize the Health-Related Impacts of Loneliness and Isolation

Research studies have begun to look at the effects of loneliness among seniors, and the findings suggest that loneliness and isolation can result in a higher likelihood of health problems. As the article articulates, “research shows older adults who feel lonely are at greater risk of memory loss, strokes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.” According to AARP, the health threat associated with emotional isolation is “similar to that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” In addition to increased risk of illness, emotional isolation has also been connected to other conditions that can lower the immune system’s functioning, such as physical inactivity and poor sleeping habits. In some studies, high blood pressure also resulted from loneliness.

Emotional isolation does not necessarily mean physical isolation. As the article reports, a study from 2012 suggested that many older people who suffer from emotional isolation or loneliness actually may live with other persons. Being lonely can lead to depression and even increased risk of death, that study showed. How big of a problem is loneliness among seniors? That same study indicated that “43% of people over 60 felt lonely.”

Combating Loneliness Among California Seniors

What can we do to prevent loneliness and emotional isolation? The first thing is to listen to an elderly loved one if she or he admits to loneliness, and recognize the potential impacts. At the same time, it is important to learn more about what can cause loneliness. According to Dr. Carla Perissinotto, a University of California, San Francisco geriatrician and researcher, loneliness can have many different causes, including but not limited to:

 

  • Hearing loss,
  • Retirement,
  • Loss of a spouse, and
  • Illness.

 

To be clear, an illness that results from nursing home neglect could lead to loneliness, which could lead to further health complications and conditions.

One California organization, “Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly,” pairs seniors in the San Francisco area with volunteers. There is not yet enough research to say for certain whether a program like this can have a positive effect, but senior advocates are hopeful that it is one of many options through which lonely, older adults can “build more social connections.”

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced San Diego Elder Abuse Lawyer

Emotional isolation or loneliness may reduce a senior’s ability to fight off infection or disease, both of which can result from nursing home neglect. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety or believe that your loved one’s injuries resulted from nursing home neglect, an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer can assist you. Contact the Walton Law Firm today for more information.

See Related Blog Posts:

Malnutrition in Carlsbad Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Neglect in San Diego and the Rise of Superbugs

 

(image courtesy of Jean Gerber)