ElderCare Online is dedicated to bringing you educational materials that help you to enhance the quality of life your elderly loved one. We have begun working closely with RSI, a leader in the development of health assessments, care plans and training materials for frail elderly people and their caregivers.
RSI pioneered the idea of care management for the "whole person" for elderly residents of assisted living facilities. In the course of years of research, they developed a comprehensive training and care management program that helps the elderly person stay active physically and mentally.
Together, ElderCare Online and RSI have tailored key components of the Caring Community program to meet the needs of family caregivers. Over the next several months, we will be presenting a new series of Skill Builders that focus on how caregivers at home and in residential facilities can learn more about chronic conditions and improve quality of care to their loved ones.
Social Isolation: Diagnosis and Cautions
Research findings indicate that social support is a human necessity. People who are socially isolated, without meaningful relationships, are at increased risk for physical deterioration, mental illness, and even death.
The term "loneliness" can mean more than one thing. Social loneliness has to do with quantity of contacts: not having enough people or enough activity in ones life. But emotional loneliness is about quality of contacts, not having a close, intimate relationship with one other person in other words, being "lonely in a crowd."
In an eldercare facility, surrounded by people, it is possible, nevertheless, to be lonely in both ways. Residents can be socially lonely if they choose not to talk with others or to participate in planned activities or if the activities are not meaningful to them. They can be emotionally lonely if all their contact with others is superficial.
Signs of Social Isolation: How do caregivers determine whether an elder is lonely? Expecting your elder to speak up and ask for help meeting people seldom works because people often find it hard to admit that they are lonely. Therefore, it is the caregivers responsibility to look for signs of social isolation. They can include:
Note that those are opposite extremes, both signs of the same problem.
Note that these are also symptoms of clinical depression.
Maintaining Old Friendships
Research suggests that long-standing relationships enhance well-being more profoundly than new friendships. Given the difficulties inherent in frailty, how can people in assisted living facilities or home care environments maintain relationships with old friends?
Here are some findings:
- One half of people in their eighties
still have at least one "close" friend.
Strategies for helping build connections
We have talked about the difficulty of maintaining old friendships and acknowledged that friendships are essential to physical and psychological well-being. Those two facts, tugging in opposite directions, would doom elderly people to loneliness if it were not possible to bring new relationships into their lives. Fortunately, research tells us that proximity is a true catalyst for friendship. As the song goes, "If I cant be near the one I love, I love the one Im near." (Brigadoon)
The fact is, people do adjust to their limits and find new ways to make friends. Here are some findings:
- 45% reported making a new friend after
What facts should caregivers take into account when trying to help people find the kinds of social relationships they need?
- Long standing relationships enhance
well-being more profoundly than new friendships. (So it follows that helping our residents
to maintain their old relationships is time well spent.)
A partial list of interventions for helping elders overcome limitations and make new friends
This is not a definitive list but it is a start. Let it help you begin thinking of what you could do.
For the sociable, outgoing
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