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  • Writer's pictureKaren Weeks, guest blogger

Only the Lonely....

“The research suggested that the feeling of loneliness may double a person's risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.”

Wait, what??

"Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone," Anne Vinggaard Christensen, study author and a Ph.D. student at The Heart Centre at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, said in a statement. "Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke…" (Newsweek, Jun 11, 2018)

In the wake of the death of a spouse, celebrating holidays when family lives hundreds of miles away, or when children now have their own families to take care of; loneliness is bound to set in. This isn’t just something to be sad about. Our elders may actually live shorter lives because of the harmful effects of loneliness. Socialization is needed even more when physical or cognitive decline makes getting out of the house difficult.

"We live in a time when loneliness is more present, and health providers should take this into account when assessing risk. Our study shows that asking two questions about social support provides a lot of information about the likelihood of having poor health outcomes," the author said. "Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health, and lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease, and a much stronger predictor than living alone, in both men and women." (Newsweek, Jun 11, 2018)

So, what’s the answer? Some communities have special activities for elders and services for meals being brought to the house. Some churches have visiting programs and some healthcare facilities have Senior Volunteer programs designed to offer companionship. We’ve discussed Video Caring in our blog, and there are ways to get that started with the intention of independent use later. Even putting time on your calendar to call and visit with an elderly person who has no one to talk to can make a huge difference.

Arranging a caregiver to be at the house to provide personal care services means an added benefit of companionship that may have more impact than the original services. Care-giving services that focus on relieving loneliness may extend one's life, according to the research.

It’s not just giving baths or making dinner. Just being there matters more than we may ever know.

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