Alone & Cold: Loneliness in Elderly Is Dangerous to Their Health

Posted on January 23, 2022

Living at a distance from aging parents and loved ones can be worrisome. Ben came to help his dad out as he was recovering alone in his house and found that his dad's car battery was dead. He was also concerned about a deadly hospital-acquired infection he'd contracted in the hospital. He found him hobbling on a walker, with very little food in the house and a host of other disquieting things that suspect happen to seniors who can no longer care for themselves. 

You can regularly check a neighbor or relative who is elderly or chronically ill from time to time. Do a few things to help seniors that would make a difference.

Ways to Prevent Isolation and Loneliness in seniors:

  • If you are going to the market, ask if they need something.
  • Volunteer to take her to the doctor. Elderly patients can be intimidated by medical professionals and might resist taking up too much of the doctor's time with questions. Suggest help create a list of questions for the doctor she is to see.
  • Propose that you are available to talk after his doctor visit to help distill what the doctor said. Suggest that he take notes during the discussion or offer to take notes for him.
  • Medication mistakes are rampant among the elderly. Maybe help is needed with organizing medications. Help create a list of drugs and dosages and what medical conditions are taking them for.
  • Please leave your phone numbers with him in case of an emergency.

As Temperatures Drop, Elderly Neighbors Need Help Staying Safe

The winter season can be a lonesome time for seniors, making it a difficult time, too. Because seniors often live alone, there's nobody there to ensure the heat is on, and they're staying warm enough. So neighbors play a crucial role in keeping seniors safe. This is especially important since the elderly don't sense the cold the way others do, putting them at exceptionally high risk of hypothermia. 

As subzero temperatures continue to freeze homes both inside and out, it's essential to plan to check in on your elderly neighbors. One way to make sure they're safe is to stop by, chat for a few moments, make sure the house is warm enough, the senior is appropriately dressed, and that they do not have signs of hypothermia. These include fumbling, stumbling, and mumbling, suggesting that the internal body temperature decreases. 

Signs to look out are confusion or memory loss, shallow breathing, shivering, bright red skin, and slurred speech. To prevent hypothermia, seniors should:

  • Keep the thermostat above 65 degrees.
  • If heating bills are a concern, consider staying in bed under the covers for extended periods. But don't forget to get up and move around regularly, since movement is healthy.
  • Dress warmly, both indoors and out, including hats, gloves, and extra, loose-fitting layers.
  • If necessary, go to a well-heated public space like the senior center, library, mall, or Movie Theater. But avoid spending too much time outdoors to get there—arranging a car service or other mode of vehicular transportation is ideal.
  • Make use of home delivery services if possible to reduce the need to venture outdoors.
  • Seniors should also try to stay dry. Activities that cause sweating should be avoided, and coats, shoes, or snow boots, must be removed immediately upon entering the house and switched out for indoor shoes.

If you see signs of hypothermia, call 911 and wrap the senior in warm blankets. Please don't put them in hot water or a bath, but offer warm fluids to drink. At this time of the year, a neighbor's helping hand is needed more than ever. And besides potentially saving lives, stopping by to say hello might make a senior's day.