Does your senior loved one’s face light up when you enter the room – then sink the moment you leave? Does your elderly mother complain about not seeing anyone – but then withdraw when you suggest that she goes out and meets new people?
Loneliness is one of the biggest health problems facing seniors in this country, and it manifests in many different ways. Some seniors may become more withdrawn, socially anxious, and isolated as they age. Others might want company, but find themselves frustrated by a lack of transportation, or the fact that their family is spread out all around the country.
As a family caregiver, it’s incredibly important to help your senior loved one stay social and connected with others as they age. Prolonged loneliness and isolation can contribute to a whole host of negative health effects. On the flip side, adults who do remain socially connected throughout their senior years tend to report better overall health, including increased longevity, lower rates of depression and anxiety, better heart health, less chronic pain, and more.
What can family caregivers do to help seniors maintain those healthy, fulfilling social bonds? Here are five ways that you can help your senior loved ones to remain social and connected:
Spend as Much Face-to-Face Time as Possible
Sometimes, it really is the little things that make the biggest difference! One of the most important ways to help your senior loved one stay connected is to make time for visits and face-to-face conversations.
Studies have suggested that seniors who regularly get to spend time with friends and family experience better overall health than those who don’t. Getting to sit down, share a meal, watch an old movie, take a gentle walk around the block – these are all powerful, rejuvenating moments, which you and your elderly loved one will be able to treasure forever. Meanwhile, the more you visit your senior loved one, the more chances you have to check up on their health and well-being and assist with important chores and responsibilities around the house.
Of course, it’s often hard to get in as much personal time as you’d like – especially if you’re one of the millions of family caregivers who helps take care of a parent from a distance. One way to help may be to create a local caregiving network. When you can’t be there in person, perhaps there’s a family friend, a neighbor, or another relative who can step in and spend quality time with your loved one in your place.
If your senior is up to it, another useful and effective option may be to connect face-to-face in cyberspace. Studies have shown that using video chat services regularly can help decrease feelings of loneliness and depression in seniors – even more so than other types of media, like emails or phone calls.
Make Transportation Services Readily Available
Did you know that half of all Americans 65 or older do not have access to reliable public transportation? In fact, in a recent survey, about half of all non-drivers 65 and older said that they felt forced to “stay at home” more often because they “don’t have transportation options.”
Helping connect your senior loved one with dependable driving and transportation services can be a powerful way to help them go out, explore, be social, and connect with their community in new and exciting ways. Driving services can help empower seniors who can no longer drive themselves to regain their freedom and independence. Being able to hit the road can feel liberating and exhilarating; it’s also an extremely practical way to help your senior relatives thrive day-to-day.
Having access to a driver or a transportation service can allow your senior loved one to attend community events, make it to doctor’s appointments, go shopping, run errands, and more. At the same time, your senior loved one might simply benefit from having someone they know and trust behind the wheel, with whom they can swap stories and laughs as they go about their day.
Encourage Your Senior Loved One to Get Involved In Their Community
America’s population is aging at a rapid rate. As communities around the country get older, more and more seniors are deciding that age is nothing but a number, and establishing groups, community events, fitness classes, and other amazing opportunities, all designed to help older adults stay socially active throughout their golden years.
As we get older, it can become harder to stay social. Friends and family members move away; others pass on. It’s easy for older adults to start to feel isolated. In most communities, though, there are countless options out there for older adults looking to make new connections.
As a family caregiver, one of the best ways to help your older loved ones stay social and connected may be to encourage them to get involved in their community in some way. There are many different choices out there, depending on your loved one’s interests, passions, and health level. From regularly attending religious services, to joining a club based around a favorite hobby, to playing a game with friends, to volunteering at a charity, to signing up for a local fitness class, there are plenty of amazing and easy ways to help your senior loved one meet new people and establish lasting friendships.
Help Create a Sense of Purpose
Have you ever heard the expression “life is what you make it?” For many older adults, the key to happiness, longevity, and connection may be to create a sense of purpose in their daily life. As a family caregiver, there are lots of ways to help.
Many studies have shown that taking care of pets can be a remarkably healthy activity for older adults, for instance. Seniors with pets often report that they are less lonely than those without. Research has even suggested that getting to spend just a few minutes with an animal can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and improve heart health for older adults. If your senior is up for it, you may want to discuss the idea of them taking care of a pet, which could mean anything from a dog or cat to a more “low-maintenance” animal companion, like a fish. There are also services that allow seniors to receive regular visits from animals, which can help provide some of those crucial health benefits with much less responsibility.
In a similar vein, many older adults report that gardening and taking care of plants helps create a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Taking care of a living thing allows older adults to add structure and intention to their days. Research has indicated that gardening and working with plants can help seniors decrease their risk for heart attack and stroke, increase strength and range of motion, and relieve stress.
Look Into Companionship and Caregiving Services
One of the single most important things you can do to help support your aging loved one is to connect them with companionship and care providers nearby. It’s crucial for older adults aging in place to get the support and personalized attention they need. For caregivers, it’s essential to take a break and get outside help from time to time, so that you can get the rest and relaxation you deserve.
Home care is a great fit for many seniors and family caregivers. In this arrangement, a professional companion can spend time with your senior loved one on a flexible schedule that suits the senior, and works for your needs as a family caregiver.
Companions can assist older adults in many different ways, including providing aid with activities of daily living (ADLs); helping with laundry, meal prep, and light housekeeping; and offering driving services to appointments and social gatherings. Even more importantly? In many cases, a senior companion becomes a friend and confidant for an older adult. Companions can be there to share meals, play games, go for walks, and generally help ensure that a senior’s life is full of friendship, attention, and care. Whether a companion comes by every day or a few times per month, there’s no telling how much a senior might benefit from having someone friendly and trustworthy in their life.
About Companions for Seniors
Curious about other ways to help your senior loved one remain active and social? Looking for caregiving and companionship services in the Chicagoland area? If you have any questions about caring for the older adult in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out to Companions for Seniors! We’d be happy to be your sounding board, share our experiences, and talk over any questions or concerns you may have about any aspect of caregiving for your aging loved ones.
If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of a professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the professionals at Companions for Seniors.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help your family shoulder some of the responsibility of caring for an aging loved one. We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active, independent, and enriched lifestyle.
Have any questions about Companions for Seniors? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our contact form available here.