At some point in our lives we all feel lonely, a sadness that comes from being alone or isolated from others. Sadness that comes and goes throughout our lives is perfectly normal, and there are times when we feel more or less connected to others. There is a common assumption that elders are destined for loneliness. The good news is, recent reports from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project show that only 30% of older adults feel consistently lonely. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ health/ct-loneliness-in-seniors-can-be-eased-20170523-story.html)
Regardless, you may find yourself caregiving for an elder who displays considerable loneliness and sadness. Even as a caregiver you are at risk for feeling lonely and isolated. You are not alone; taking on the challenge of caregiving leads many people to feel stressed, alone and sad. At the same time, it is important to know that chronic loneliness is correlated with increased stress and inflammation, depression, and reduced immune system functioning, so taking action to reduce your or someone else’s loneliness is crucial.
By taking these simple actions you can help your loved one, and/or yourself, recover from loneliness. First, encourage and provide opportunities to spend more time with other people. Consider spending time with whoever brightens your or your loved one’s day the most. Perhaps it’s grandchildren, long-time friends, a church community, neighbors, or even your cat or dog. We all have our ways of giving and receiving love. You may find joy in attending church service, singing in a choir, cooking meals for your family, or taking your grandchildren to the park. Try to consistently incorporate these activities into your life, and notice how your stress or tension eases.
The second action to recover from loneliness is to eliminate conflict within family relationships. Family disputes leads to increased stress and negative emotions. Caregivers may find it useful to find a professional to mediate family conversations and find ways for mutual compromise. These positive actions can help you and your loved one have a renewed sense of belonging.
Loneliness is a signal indicating we must attend to an essential need, in this case a desire for belonging. Often, in times of loneliness, people benefit from simple acts of kindness. If you worry about your loved one’s ongoing loneliness, try to reengage them in their favorite pastime or think of small ways to brighten their day.
I find that giving someone a genuine hug and smile can ease their stress. Or when you ask about their day, truly stop to listen and respond with compassion. Many older adults feel reinvigorated by sharing quality time: Go for a walk or relax together in the sunshine. By giving your love generously, and engaging in acts of kindness, you can create moments of joy and mindful appreciation for each other. So take action today to wash your blues away!
© Senior Life Solutions 2017