Top Challenges of Adults Aging Alone and How to Remedy Them

 

Click to learn more about the Family Caregiver Benefit Plan

Today’s Live talked about a few challenges seniors face and the app I use that helps me navigate some of them.

First challenge is Loneliness and Isolation

A report by GreatCall and another by AARP confirm same data: both defined ‘loneliness’ as “the way people perceive their experience – whether they feel isolated or not.”  Survey results showed:

  • 35 percent of adults age 45+ are lonely – 
  • 37 percent of adults age 50 - 59 
  • 36 percent of adults 60 - 69
  • 24 percent of adults 70+

The Costs

In late 2017, research from AARP’s Public Policy Institute concluded that socially isolated older adults cost the U.S. health system an additional $6.7 billion in health-related spending.

Newer research from the National Institute on Aging focuses on the connections between loneliness as a predictor of cognitive decline, and other health risks, including: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

Monthly Cost to Medicare for a Socially Isolated Enrollee and an Enrollee with Selected Chronic Conditions (these are per enrollee, per month.)

  • Diabetes  $270/mo/per enrollee
  • Heart Disease  $241/mo/per enrollee
  • High blood pressure  $163/mo/per enrollee
  • Social Isolation  $134/mo/per enrollee
  • Arthritis  $117/mo/per enrollee

The study says,

The Top Predictors of Loneliness

  • Size and quality of one’s social network
  • Health limitations that exacerbate social isolation

An app that I subscribe to is the Family Caregiver Benefit Plan, which seniors like me can use to apply to health and emotional conditions, and to have easy access to physicians and dietitians -- along with psychologists, dentists, pharmacists, and more.

My question to a psychologist via the Family Caregiver Benefit Plan

"What are your recommendations to avoid isolation and loneliness?  I no longer work outside the home and find myself bored and with too much time on my hands which invites depression. I'm 65 years of age, no children at all, no job, a very few hobbies like reading and painting but feel these keep me at home too much. Can you please offer tips and advice on how to avoid depression due to isolation? Thank you, Carol"

Response within the hour via email - (plus I have an option to call a counselor via phone if needed:)  

"Hello Ms. Marak, Welcome to ePsych. I am the ePsych psychologist. It is nice to hear from you today. You pose an interesting question. I am of similar age and believe I can understand some of your struggles with getting outside of the home for activities. Socializing is not quite as easy or exciting as it felt in my younger years. The activities you mention are great, but do not get you outside the home. Connections with others has tremendous health and emotional benefits. As a start, one consideration might be to expand the activities you are already doing. For example, investigating art classes could be a way to expand your painting interests. Attending art shows may also be an activity to get you more engaged with others. Reading might also provide some new outlets that involve others. What are a exploring a reading club at your local library. You might consider taking/teaching a class at a local community college or even the local library. See...it is easy for me to generate activities for you! HA Carol, one activity that I have been exploring in bicycle riding. Let me confess, I have not ridden a bike in over 50 years! Nonetheless, I purchased a bike and have been meeting all kinds of interesting people, younger and older than me that have a passion for bicycle riding. Learning to ride a bicycle again has been fun, and just as much fun has it been to meet new people willing to ''mentor'' me in this new activity. I am new to the community where I live, so I am learning so much from this one undertaking. Along the way, interesting discussions evolve that have nothing to do with bicycle riding. Please let me know some of your ideas on this. Also know that you are welcome to use ePsych as much as you find helpful. Our conversations are confidential. Thanks for your message today. I look forward to hearing back from you. Kind regards, Joe"

A chronic health condition question that I asked a dietitian via the plan:

"I have an auto immune disease called eczema. I've researched online for the foods to avoid and wonder if eczema is an 'allergic' reaction to food? I've heard it can be seasonal as well but for me it's constant. Does turmeric work well for eczema and auto immune disease? Any other recommendations besides topical creams? I use CeraVe and it works okay. Should I avoid dairy products and focus on plant based foods?"

Response within 2 hours:

"Hi Marak, The links below will give you the big picture, which is, as you probably know, pretty complex. If you haven't already read it, I think you'll want to read it all. But I will excerpt the conclusion for you: ''...a healthy diet is critical to good health and can be transformative for some patients,” he said. “I think that dairy products and simple carbs (including all the wonderful things that contain gluten) and sugars can contribute to inflammation in a lot of folks. I think that eliminating dairy and carbs, processed foods in general, and eating mostly vegetables/plant-based foods with some meat and fish is probably very healthy for many people.” The biggest takeaway when it comes to eczema and food allergies is to always consult with a trusted health care provider before making any drastic changes to your diet, Lio said. Many patients find that when they eat a ‘cleaner' diet, everything gets better—not clear, mind you—but better, which is great,... With this as a background, maybe for a month or two to stabilize, I think that adults can then experiment with excluding foods that they think may be contributing to flares.'' This is from a Dr. who specializes in this type of condition. I'm sorry not to have a definitive answer for you but I am not a Dr. or a specialist in this area. I will also send you a link about healthy eating in general. Click on ''all about the ____ group and then ''daily ___table'' for each food group to see how many servings are recommended for your age group and gender. Since a plant based diet is recommended, link 3 (bottom left) has a sign up for a 3 week vegan challenge. They send 3 weeks worth of recipes, menus and shopping list. My husband and I did it. We liked every recipe. Link 4 has some more recipes. Some have meat but it is a plant based diet. Link 5 has information about grains. Any grain that has triticum or similar word in it is a type of wheat, so to avoid gluten, avoid those. But it shows you many options that don't have wheat. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions." Syd, and here are Helpful Links:

I'm pleased with both responses. And best thing, I'm not limited to the number of questions that I can ask!

Solutions from the UK

Here's how social services In the UK are tackling loneliness.

A patient's testimony:  "The only person I talked to was a delivery driver or the postal service driver ... One day, feeling my life was totally worthless, I visited my GP. She said she had heard about a new thing called ‘social prescribing’... She did not offer me pills. This was great! ...Now I have friends, I go out for meals; I’ve been on day trips to the coast, the animal park and other places. There’s always something to look forward to."

Social Prescribing enables General Practioners and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker - to provide them with a face to face conversation during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalized solutions, i.e. ‘co-produce’ their ‘social prescription’- so that people with social, emotional or practical needs are empowered to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector. It is an innovative and growing movement, with the potential to reduce the financial burden on the primary care doctors and nurses.

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