While the world is battling the COVID-19 epidemic, there is another silent epidemic that is ravaging the nation. The epidemic of Loneliness!
Loneliness and social isolation in older adults are serious public health risks affecting a significant number of people in the United States . A recent study of 10,000 adults led by CIGNA found that more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship, according to the survey. And loneliness may be on the rise. The report found nearly 13% rise in loneliness since 2018, when the survey was first conducted.
Studies have found that loneliness and social isolation put seniors at increased risk for dementia, depression and other serious medical conditions. Also noteworthy is that over 90% of all seniors in the United States suffer from one or more chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or respiratory ailments. Taking medications regularly and in the right doses is essential for managing these chronic conditions. There is a very high likelihood for the seniors experiencing loneliness and depression to stop taking their medications leading to exacerbations of their chronic conditions, which in turn results in an emergency care or hospital stay. Research shows that even a day of hospital stay results in 3% to 11% loss of muscle function and prolonged or frequent hospitalizations results in increase in anxiety, stress and depression. Thus loneliness and social isolation can trigger a truly vicious downward spiral for the elderly and the vulnerable. This cause and effect relationship is often overlooked because the US hospitals, much like everywhere in the world, treat the clinical symptoms - so the doctors and nurses at the hospital focus on treating the hypoglycemia or the myocardial infraction, not so much as what led to diabetic or cardiac episode - or in some cases to frequent of these episodes.
We at Artemis Care Inc. believe that it should be possible to look at care from a patient-centric lens. Our telehealth solution, ArtemisCare Platform looks at remote care holistically and addresses underlying causes such as loneliness, boredom and depression through appropriate timely intervention, breaking that vicious spiral and avoiding the downstream effects leading to hospitalization. The good news is each and everyone of us can do our part to help combat this silent epidemic. These are some ways we can help: • Encourage the older adults in your circle to join exercise groups, volunteer or join peer social groups. • Participate with the elderly in your life and community to exercise your brain through classes, clubs, or other forms of learning. • Encourage participation in prayer clubs and meditation sessions. • Create social awareness in your community of this loneliness epidemic. Encourage children to call their elderly family members on a regular basis, even if it is for few minutes to check-in. • Encourage the older adults to try using technology and help them overcome any initial inhibitions or fear of technology to network with friends and relatives. Virtual social networking can provide the same sense of community and belonging as in-person networking.
• Help the lonely manage pets , if they are inclined and unable to do so themselves. Pets provide that special companionship and joy that goes a long way combat stress and anxiety.
• Most importantly learn to detect signs of depression or serious mental illness in the seniors in your life and community and seek clinical help on their behalf.
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