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Social Isolation

Imagine this scenario:

Your mom is at a small gathering of friends, a special luncheon of peers she has enjoyed for a long time. Her hearing is not so great… she keeps forgetting names and occasions… she has recently complained of  becoming incontinent… now she’s using a walker… she says she doesn’t want to inconvenience you by asking you for a ride. She’s embarrassed, ashamed. She’s feels terrible. Her monthly gathering is now a chore.

Your mom bows out of the fun. And it’s one of the last social events that she actually enjoyed. But now, it’s over.

Going out, even to the grocery store, is a big task. Now she’s stopped going to birthday parties, family picnics and the like.

She is, unknowingly, socially isolating herself. You’re more worried. Your mom seems ‘less engaged’ with everyone. She’s lost interest in outside activities because it all seems like ‘so much work!’.

When the person you love seems less engaged socially, it’s almost always a sign of something else that has gone amiss. I urge you not to ignore it. They need your help.

Here’s a list of some of the reasons why older folks engage less:

They simply can’t do all the things they used to do the way they used to do them. It’s easier to stay home than it is to fight to overcome whatever’s ‘not like it was’.

They are having trouble hearing. This is a major precipitator of social withdrawal behavior. Often, they simply won’t admit it. (Imagine that!)

Becoming incontinent is a silent, powerful destroyer of self-confidence.

Imagine how you would feel if you felt you couldn’t go anywhere without a bathroom within arm’s reach. Or, worse, had to wear a diaper when you left the house. That would put a big crimp in your social plans!

Overwhelming embarrassment can also result from having to use either a walker or an oxygen tank/generator. It’s new and different. And even if their friends find themselves in the same boat, who enjoys dragging a metal tank behind them?

These reasons and more draw your loved one into a downward spiral of deepening  loneliness and isolation… needlessly!

What to look for.

The decline will not happen without your knowledge… if you’re paying attention.

Yes… it will probably happen slowly. You may notice your mom or dad or aunt is attending fewer family functions. You may also notice that they become confused more easily than they used to. It happens. 

Your may start to pick-up on a new reluctance to ask anyone for help. They’re embarrassed! Anyone would be! And you may feel they call you less than they used to call.

What can happen.

Increased isolation can lead to even more problems. For instance, you may notice your loved one loses their appetite… or seems depressed more frequently. 

They may let their personal hygiene slip.You may also notice that they’re sleeping more than they used to. But these changes in behavior don’t have an inevitable ending. You can help!

What one simple step can you take to help?

Whenever possible (and no less than once/week), arrange for your family to come together in a small group. Everybody knows everybody else. Secrets are few. And your mom or dad won’t be overcome by people they don’t know.

If nearby family isn’t available to help with this endeavor, get your loved one into a program for seniors who are facing the same challenges they are. These groups meet everywhere… all the time. If you look, you will find them easily!

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