Thursday, January 17, 2013

Overcoming the Senior Loneliness That Can Lead to Dementia

Loneliness Increases Risk of Dementia

One consequence of withdrawing from their old activities and social engagements is that seniors doing so are very likely to lead to many days on end spent alone. Some seniors don’t mind being alone and can find things to do to keep themselves entertained, including the internet, reading, small household jobs or other activities, and are seemingly unaffected by isolation. For others, however, being alone that is joined by a feeling of loneliness can be a harmful combination.

We recently found a new study that confirms elderly people who feel lonely are at increased risk for dementia. Researchers stress there is a difference between living alone and feeling lonely.

The results of the study show that, after three years, dementia had developed in about 9% of seniors who lived alone versus 6% in those not living alone. About 11% of those without social support compared to 5% in those with support and 13% in those that said they were lonely compared with 6% in those who did not feel they were lonely went on to develop dementia.

That relates to a 2.5 times greater likelihood of elders developing dementia who were lonely. These statistics are equal for men and women. From this research, it appears that the feeling of loneliness influences the development of dementia.

As family caregivers, we need to remember that being alone is not necessarily a risk for a decline in health by itself, but instead, the feeling of loneliness can be a trigger for dementia.

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