In the aging process, an older person can adapt and handle the physical and mental challenges of decline if they have some form of nearby support. But not every older American has access to a family member or a friend to give occasional help.
There’s an unseen group of seniors that the health care industry has recently noticed. It’s the community-dwelling aged who are socially and/or physically isolated, without an available known family member or designated caregiver.
They’ve been in plain sight for years but since boomers are entering the 60 plus population, the demographic will intensify, due to the group’s known status of having the highest divorce rates and childless marriages. And in a matter of a few decades, the chronic diseases will put a heavy burden on the medical care providers.
What’s needed from the medical care teams and the local community-based support services is a better process and a way to track and assess the risks. The individuals need education, support, and guidance to prepare for becoming frail and dependent. But more importantly, they need to receive a thorough screening for the high risks of aging alone.
Some requirements would include:
- To learn what’s needed in designing the advanced directives
- To select a trustworthy healthcare proxy
- To learn how to set up a care plan far in advance of needing acute care.
- To learn how to prevent avoidable hospital admissions
- To find services that help with medical, functional, social, and safety needs
- To locate social services, adult protective services, and senior agencies
- To learn the health strategies that help them avoid negative events
- To build a support group
To better help all seniors, not just the people who live without support in the household, the aging industry and service professionals should become aware of the risks that endanger older adults lives.
- Social support – Low social support links to both poor physical and psychological health and an increased risk of mortality for the elderly population. Moreover, decreased social interaction that can stem from this lack of support which correlates with low effect and arousal, poor cognitive and social skills, and altered mental functioning.
- Isolation and loneliness – Isolation is the state of having minimal contact with others, whereas loneliness is the feeling of being socially alone and isolated. Both of these states are identified as risk factors for physical and cognitive decline.
- Childlessness – Living without the support of family caregivers is an important risk factor for social isolation. Many studies have shown that childless adults often do have support networks, usually consisting of relatives, friends, and neighbors. However, these networks are less likely to provide the long-term commitment and comparable high level of support that children offer.
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