Social Isolation of a Loved One

Your elderly mother executed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and nominated you to serve as her healthcare agent. Years later, she is diagnosed with dementia and continues to live in her condo by herself. Many of her friends are no longer living in her community and you see your mother spending more and more time in her residence alone. As her health care agent, you are contemplating whether it is time to arrange for her to move to an assisted care facility. Before making any decisions, you should consider the following:

The desire to remain at home.

Nearly 90% of people over age 65 indicate they want to stay in their home as long as possible, and four of five in that age bracket believe their current home is where they will always live. Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices; AARP Public Policy Institute, December 2011. Not surprisingly, nearly one-third of all seniors-13.8 millions persons-live by themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Health risks for seniors living alone.

Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss. A recent study concluded that social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia. Researchers also found that loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Social isolation.

Social scientists who study isolation and loneliness have attempted to define these terms in specific ways, since a person is considered socially isolated if they live alone, have less than monthly contact with friends or family, and don’t belong to a group (religious congregation, club, work or volunteer organization, etc.). Journal of Aging Life Care, Spring 2018, Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness, Clifford Singer, MD.

Food for thought.

In many instances, the intention to avoid health risks associated with social isolation of a senior is the motivation for the move. However, before reaching the conclusion that relocation is necessary, you should visit: This article by Jeff Anderson published on March 23, 2016, notes that a lack of adequate transportation is a primary cause of a social isolation and addressing this issue can “help them maintain social connections and a healthy sense of independence.” He also notes that “seniors with a sense of purpose or hobbies that really interest them are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation.” Therefore, encouraging them to engage in activities at senior care centers or volunteering can promote health. In addition, he stresses that the importance of pets should not be underestimated since nurturing and caring for an animal companion can be quite beneficial.

As a health care agent, you should explore the options to promote your loved one’s health before determining they should relocate to a more supported living arrangement. Balancing their desire to remain at home and independent with the potentially devastating impact of social isolation is difficult. However, there may be numerous ways to enable them to engage in a healthy social life despite the fact he or she is suffering from cognitive impairment.

Whether you need to seek guardianship for an elderly relative with dementia, or advice about setting up Durable Power of Attorney contact a guardianship lawyer in Las Vegas for your needs.

For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship, and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.