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The pandemic has brought the issue of loneliness and social isolation to the forefront. Loneliness and social isolation are terms that seem to be used interchangeably; however, they are not the same.

Loneliness is a feeling, and there are so many factors that can contribute to this feeling. There are more and more studies coming out on loneliness in elderly populations and all the different causes for this feeling. Society is seeing it more, now that the older population has increased. It has brought more awareness of how social relationships impact the health and well-being of older populations and how living alone, loss of friends/family and chronic illness can contribute significantly to the feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, depressive symptoms, impaired cognitive performance and dementia. Loneliness is the perception that one does not have meaningful relationships.

However, social isolation is the main contributing factor to feeling of loneliness. Social isolation occurs when one does not have meaningful social engagements. It is estimated that nearly one-third to one-half of elderly individuals may experience social isolation or loneliness. Social Isolation in elderly should be avoided because it can affect mental health, physical health and increase the risk of dementia.

These issues have existed for quite some time especially in our disabled and elderly populations. This didn’t start with the pandemic and will continue as things get back to normal. It is important to remember that all the extra reaching out and checking on our older populations should continue after the pandemic is over.

Volunteering within the community is a great way to meet people and build connections with people. Older people have a unique skill set and although they may not be able to do all the things they once did, they still have knowledge and expertise that younger people lack. Elderly people can get out of this vicious cycle by staying in touch with friends and family and by attending family gatherings. However, friends and family are not always close by, this is where the community needs to come together

Nursing home residents were isolated from the community and their families during the pandemic, which was hard on their mental health. Nursing home staff have been the only family that some of the residents have had “in person” contact with this last year and they have worked even harder than usual to provide some sense of hope and security. Our local community has been amazing in their efforts to provide encouragement during this pandemic for both our residents and staff.

Our staff and residents have received cards, letters and gifts from so many members of the community. Cripple Creek Care Center may not be able to thank each person, organization or business personally, but we would like to send a HUGE shout out to our wonderful Teller County community members that have stepped up and helped out and encouraged our residents that there is a light and that they are thought of daily!

To the community member and business that provided encouragement for our wonderful staff that went above and beyond to keep our residents healthy and safe and worked extra during this scary time: THANK YOU.

No words can express the gratitude that we all feel toward our community at this time, now that things are opening up and our residents are able to get out more and see their families (not just through a window).

Let’s keep it up. Let’s still continue to reach out to those that are isolated, that need a helping hand, an ear or a friend. Let’s continue to thank our essential staff that have gotten us through this time of need.

Laloni Hampton-Bancroft is the director of Admissions/Marketing at the Cripple Creek Care Center. For more information visit cc-care.org or find the center on Facebook. The Golden Bridge Network bridges seniors and services through enhanced communication and process improvement in Teller County and the neighboring communities. To learn more, visit the Golden Bridge Network Facebook page, email info.goldenbridgenetwork@gmail.com or call 719-687-3000.

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