Social Isolation and Loneliness may be Causing Problem Behaviors
Social isolation and loneliness are associated, often wrongly, with old age. That's not to say they aren't certainly significant factors when physical and mental health problems are present. There is also strong evidence that social isolation and loneliness may play a major role in some types of problem behaviors.
Problem behaviors can at times make caregiving for Alzheimer’s very stressful. To discover the cause of these problems we have to remember that human behaviors, our actions and mannerisms, are dictated by a number of complex and interactive factors. These result from stimuli that can be internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, voluntary or involuntary. The difference in people with Alzheimer's is that their ability to recognize, express and resolve their needs independently and express it through their behavior is impaired.
Knowing that a behavior is as an expression of unmet needs means we can try to identify its cause, in this case, social isolation and loneliness. For instance in nursing homes verbal and vocial behaviors, as well as some non-aggressive behaviors other than pacing and wandering, tended to increase in frequency when residents were alone and to decrease when they were with other people. Researchers have also found that when staffing levels were high there was a significant reduction in problem behaviors.
People with dementia who demonstrate severe cognitive impairment - that is problems with thinking, problem solving, learning and judgement - still have the need for safety, love, belonging, and affection. American psychologist Abraham Maslow identified these as higher order needs within his framework of human motivation. His model has been used extensively to help formulate models of care in many medical and social care facilities. It also means that caregivers at home and in residential care settings can often decrease problem behaviors through increasing social interactions, sometimes just by providing a pleasant stimuli, such as music.
More information on Coping with screaming and other loud repetitive vocalizations
And in this very interesting sharepost Dorian reports that social isolation may be a factor in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
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Heinrich, L.M., Gullone, E. (2006) The Clinical Significance of Loneliness: a literature review, Clinical Psychology Review, 26, (6), pp 605-718.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50, 370-96.
Maslow, A.H. (1943). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.