Loneliness Linked to Risk of Dementia
As your parent ages, you may have worries about mom or dad’s health and wellness. For many, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory issues are a top concern because of how common they are in older adults. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds.
Dementia is a broad term that can include many changes to memory or the way the brain works. And, while we don’t know all of the causes of dementia, studies continue in an effort to find risk factors and ways to prevent it. These studies help show areas where your parent could reduce his or her chances of getting the disease.
Your parent can’t control some risk factors – such as age, another related condition, or genetics. However, you may find areas where you can help your aging parent make changes for the better. For example, a study recently showed loneliness linked to risk of dementia.
Research on the Effects of Feeling Lonely
In the study, researchers surveyed 12,000 people about their loneliness, social isolation, behavior, and genetics. They defined loneliness as “a feeling that you do not fit in or do not belong with the people around you.” After collecting this initial data, they followed each person over 10 years for signs of dementia.
In 2018, The Journals of Gerontology published results from the study. Over the 10-year period, those who reported their current status made them feel socially isolated were much more likely to have developed the condition. Overall, the study concluded that loneliness increased the risk of dementia by as much as 40 percent.
This recent study isn’t the only one to find a link between dementia and feeling lonely. In 2015, another study published in Ageing Research Reviews found a link between dementia and factors like low social participation or less frequent social contact.
Is Your Aging Parent Lonely?
If you’ve noticed signs that your mom or dad is more socially isolated, don’t be afraid to offer support. By talking about feelings of loneliness, you can help avoid its health effects.
When it comes to fighting loneliness, consider how your aging parent’s location affects social interaction. How far is mom or dad from others at a similar life stage? Are there activities nearby for seniors? If you’re aging parent can’t drive, does this cause a problem?
Often, when your parent lives in a location that provides ample social events, it helps to reduce isolation. Most assisted living communities offer many activities for residents. In addition, communities made up of only senior adults naturally allow for daily contact with peers.