Philosophers say that you die alone. Research indicates that you might die earlier if you live a life of loneliness. We are all aware of the emotional pain associated with loneliness. It can be especially devastating to an older adult.
A recent study found that loneliness was a predictor of both functional decline and death. The researchers found that “loneliness is a common source of distress, suffering, and impaired quality of life in older persons.”
Having served hundreds of families, I’ve found that when discussion is focused on assistance we provide for baths, dressing/undressing, transferring, etc., there is interest and relief that help is available. I am by no means discounting those services. Nobody wants to be afraid to get in the bathtub so there is certainly appreciation for that assistance. However, demeanors change when we shift to other areas.
We are always humbled and honored when given the opportunity to re-inject life into a lonely situation. Almost without exception, I have found that simply having someone to share a meal or enjoy a game of Scrabble with can have tremendous positive effects on a person’s wellbeing. When I mention that we might also explore outings to the farmers market, an exhibit at the Arts Center or Clinton Library, or just a trip to Hobby Lobby, they absolutely light up. The key is in listening for what they are interested in and empowering them to regain that life.
Clearly, all outings are not appropriate for everyone and we recognize that. For many, simply enjoying the company of our caregiver puts a smile on their face.
I used to say that Home Helpers can’t add any days to your life, but we can add life to your days. In light of this new research linking loneliness with functional design and death, perhaps we can do both.