Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Loneliness and mental illness - guest post by Amy S. Cook

Loneliness and Mental Illness – The Connection
There’s a woman who lives alone in my apartment block – she keeps to herself and rarely ventures out. And when she does, she is hostile and cantankerous. The other residents of the building don’t treat her well; they make fun of her or generally give her a wide berth. A few like me know she is not mentally sound all the time, so we try to help her from time to time (only to be rebuffed). My spouse and I discuss her from time to time; we wonder if she became this way because she has lived alone for a long time or if she was abandoned by her family members because she was going senile.
A study conducted at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggests that there is evidence to prove that loneliness and seclusion are high risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Older people who live alone are more susceptible to being affected by mental illness than others their age. The study proved that they were more prone to a gradual loss of memory and confusion, something that seems to affect most people living alone with little or no social life whatsoever.
It’s easy for the young and tech-savvy to stay connected – thanks to the Internet and social networking, it’s easy to keep in touch with the world, even if it is through virtual connections rather than flesh-and-blood meetings. But for those who are past their prime, whose families have long since gone their own ways or who don’t have families at all, and who don’t have anything to do in life other than sit around and watch life go by and wait for death to come calling,
So if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, one way to prevent the onset of the disease is to stay busy for as long as possible. Keep in touch with friends, and even if you live alone once you are past the age of 55, make it a point to socialize at least once a week. Instead of staying cooped up in your home or apartment, take a walk everyday and meet new people in the process. Have friends over for a game of cards and a few drinks or go out for a movie with them once in a while. When your mind is busy and active, your neurons stay active too and do not fade away into oblivion because they are no longer being used.
And if you know people who are past their prime and who are leading a quiet, retired life, encourage them to stay active on the social circuit and spend more time with their families. If they are capable of doing any kind of work, don’t prevent them from doing so because of their age. The bottom line is – as long as your body and mind are active and you lead an active social life, you can keep dementia and related mental illnesses away.
By-line:
This guest article was written by Amy S. Cook, who regularly writes on the topic of
lvn to rn online . She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: amy.cook@rediffmail.com

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