National Preparedness Month: Building Support Networks

The last three years have taught us anything can happen. That is why we believe it’s even more important to bring awareness to preparedness and prevention. While we may not be able to help seniors avoid every risk, we can help them prepare and know how to respond and care for themselves if something happens.

National Preparedness Month is dedicated to helping people know what to do when a disaster or an emergency strikes. A solid support system is often overlooked as the most important element of preparedness in senior safety plans.

What is National Preparedness Month?

September is National Preparedness Month, a 30-day campaign dedicated to building resilience, educating the public, and helping people of all ages be prepared for unexpected disasters and emergencies.

National Preparedness Month is run by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Ready.gov provides resources dedicated to senior safety and preparedness during times of natural disaster or other crises. 

Helping seniors build strong support systems is one of the most impactful things caregivers can do. Knowing what to do during an emergency is essential. It is equally important for seniors to know who to turn to if such an event occurs.

Why National Preparedness Month is the Perfect Time to Build Support Networks

When disaster strikes, there are different responses. Some people spring into action, others panic, and some immediately start looking for help from others. Seniors have unique life challenges, from mobility impairments to limited transportation options, so they must build support networks with these challenges in mind.

Support networks help seniors feel safer, stay calm, and get immediate assistance when they need it. Support systems are family members, friends, and other trusted caregivers seniors can turn to anytime.

In 2015, only 20% of adults over 60 received community-based support. These services can be even more limited for seniors living in rural areas. While increasing access nationally to seniors is critical, there are steps you can take to help your loved ones today.

Support Systems for Seniors – What are they?

A support system is a group of people we surround ourselves with who have our best interests in mind. Members of senior support systems include caregivers, friends, family members, CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants), HHAs (Home Health Aides), and registered nurses.

A support system is vital for promoting positive mental health in older adults. Research shows that social support positively influences mental health, which is particularly important among seniors who experience depression due to isolation.

Mental Health First Aid recommends combining personal support with technology and outside groups. There are many opportunities for seniors to connect with others, such as online senior support groups and in-person meet-up groups.

Senior centers and even adult daycares provide an opportunity for seniors to expand their support system. This also benefits their caregivers as they experience less stress and have others to rely on when they need support.

Importance of Support Systems for Seniors

There are several reasons why social support systems are so vital to senior health and wellness. Senior care is about addressing needs, adapting to challenges, and finding ways to make life enjoyable at every age. Support networks help seniors:

Feel Less Alone

Loneliness and social isolation are real threats to seniors’ well-being. The Centers for Disease Control reveal that chronic loneliness increases health risks, including a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and self-harm.

Among patients with heart failure, those who suffered from loneliness were 68% more likely to be hospitalized, and 57% had an increased risk of emergency room visits.

Seniors are also at a higher risk of being depressed and struggling with feelings of meaninglessness and worthlessness without a support network. They need to be around others who remind them of their value and inspire them to stay connected with the world.

Lower Risk of Injury

With solid support networks, seniors can adopt a more proactive approach to their health. Doing so can prevent accidental injury or injuries stemming from medical oversights. Medical professionals, including in-home aides, play an essential role in senior care and social support.

Greater Cognitive Performance and Memory

One of the worst things that can happen to older adults is losing touch with the outside world. Socialization helps lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments. Seniors engaged with others frequently have better cognitive processing and increased memory.

Respite for Caregivers

If you care for your senior loved one full-time, you understand how exhausting it can be. You are a human being with your own needs, and caregiver burnout is a significant threat worth addressing. Expanding your loved one’s support system gives you more space to find much-needed breaks.

Rather than take care of your loved one alone, you can rely on other trusted individuals to give them the care and connection they deserve.

Support networks allow caregivers to achieve a better balance in their lives, take better care of themselves, spend time with family, and even connect with their loved ones on a more meaningful level.

How to Build Meaningful Support Networks for Seniors

There are several ways you can build a social network for your senior relative.

Communicate Openly with Medical Professionals

From Primary Care Providers to specialists and mental health therapists, keep an open line of communication with your loved one’s medical team. If they have questions, they should always feel welcome to reach out. Consider encouraging them to reach out and become their own advocate.

Include Friends and Family

Caregiving doesn’t have to be a solitary job. Many older adults will hide their struggles for fear of becoming a burden. Caregivers can put so much time into caring for their loved one that they don’t look after themselves. It takes more than one person to care for an aging loved one. Allow friends and family to help however they can, whether making routine social calls, collecting mail, or running errands.

Join Groups

Many religious organizations have services available to help aging members of their community. Help seniors connect with others through groups, whether they’re through church or senior support networks nearby.

Hire Professional Services

From dementia support to financial management, there are many home services you and your loved one can rely on for improved care. Hiring home health services can also bolster your loved one’s support network.

At Reflections Management and Care, we provide home services to seniors and their families in Baldwinsville, New York, and surrounding areas. Our goal is to deliver the most reliable, compassion-driven services for all seniors in need.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please click here to contact us today.