Hey there Careblazer.
Today I want to talk about loneliness and isolation and this applies to both you and your LOWD, so wear both hats when reading this post.
If you would rather watch a video on this topic, click here.
So what do you think of when I ask, "what does it mean to be lonely?" Likely, you think of the obvious: it means to be alone. But I want you to think about this more. What does it mean to be lonely? I have had one Careblazer describe it as feeling like you are surrounded by people but no one can hear you. Yet another has said that it feels like sadness and depression. While others have described loneliness as being physically distanced from people, which is closer to the definition of social isolation.
So why does this matter? Beyond the obvious reason that loneliness and social isolation are not fun to experience, there is research to show that this impacts not only your mental health but also your physical well-being.
So let’s start with some facts.
Did you know that, according to a study conducted by AARP in 2018, one out of every 3 adults over the age of 45 feels lonely? These are just adults in the general population. These are not caregivers. AND this was before the pandemic!
By mid 2020, research conducted by AARP found that 67% of older adults felt socially isolated! Again, these are adults in the general population. We also know that caregivers can socially isolate AND experience loneliness even under the best of circumstances. AND we know that our LOWDs have been further isolated during the pandemic.
So how does this impact your or your LOWD’s health?
From a mental health perspective, people who are lonely are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. You may be thinking, "well that makes sense, being lonely is psychological so it makes sense that you might be depressed or anxious". BUT did you know that it is also associated with great declines in thinking and that people who are lonely are more likely to report pain?
And Careblazer, that’s not all. Studies such as that completed by Hakulinen and colleagues published in 2018 have shown that people who report loneliness and social isolation are at increased risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Also in those individuals who had previously had heart attacks or strokes, there was an increased risk for death.
I want to alert you all to this because it really emphasizes what we have been talking about: take care of yourself Careblazer. Join a support group. Reach out to friends. It doesn’t matter how you do it: video, phone, or in-person, more social connectedness is important. So take inventory of how you are feeling Careblazer. Pay attention to if you are socially isolating and take steps to actively combat that. Notice if you are like that first Careblazer I mentioned today, who described herself as being surrounded by people and no one could hear her. If that is you Careblazer, get connected.