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Letter to the Editor: Be sure to check on your neighbors
Letter To The Editor

From Teena Monk-Gerber

Dementia Outreach Specialist, Green and Rock Counties

To the editor:

As we all learn to live in this “new abnormal” of social distancing and isolating ourselves, we are experiencing what so many older adults, people with disabilities and people with chronic conditions have long experienced: social isolation and loneliness. And it doesn’t feel good.

Even before the coronavirus, an estimated 25% of U.S. community-dwelling adults age 65 and over meet the definition of being socially isolated — having few relationships or infrequent social contact. Being socially isolated increases the risk of premature death and of developing dementia. Likewise, research shows that people who feel lonely have four times the risk of death than those who don’t, 68% increased risk of hospitalization and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

We’re all in this together. That’s what we’ve all been saying throughout the pandemic. While true, the effects are not the same for everybody. Older adults are at much greater risk for health impacts if they contract the virus, so it is even more important that they practice social distancing and restrict contact with people outside their household — which leads to more isolation and loneliness.

So, let’s remember our older neighbors, friends with chronic conditions and people with disabilities during this time of isolation, especially those who may not have access to cell phones and computers to stay in touch.

What can you do? Make a telephone call to see how they are doing. Ask if they need medications, groceries, supplies for a hobby or anything else. Ask if they need their lawn mowed or their yard tidied up. Knock on their door. Back up well more than six feet. Smile. Have a brief conversation. You’ll both benefit from the human contact. Drop off magazines or a friendly card offering cheer and support. Encourage them to get outside — even if it’s just to walk up and down the driveway or sit on their front porch.

And when this pandemic is over — and one day it will be — remember how you are feeling now during this time and commit to reaching out to those who experience social isolation and loneliness all the time. For additional ways to help those in our community experiencing isolation and loneliness, please call Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of WI at 888-308-6251.