We here at POP have long been concerned that well-meaning folks often are uninformed about the real dangers of “aging in place” if and when there’s little social interaction at home. And, unfortunately, this happens even in many loving families far too often. The risks are actually far more dangerous than we’ve ever understood or wanted to believe.
Unfortunately, our Certified POP Family Coaches hear it every day from loving families : “As much we want to spend time with our aging parents, there are so many other demands on our busy schedules — our kids, the PTA, overtime at work, a much-needed weekend away that our marriage needs… “ They also hear from the senior Moms and Dads: “The kids love me, but they don’t come around much or stay long when they do. And the grandkids, they’re on their phones most of the time but they never seem to call me. I don’t want to be a burden and I understand but…”
Senior residences have their limitations too and may not be workable for you or your aging parents. But stop and think before you cross that wide swath of options off your list — from resort-like establishments with suites, activities and educational missions for folks over 55 all the way to full-on facilities for parents with serious physical and/or cognitive limitations. Discover how much of your aging parent’s day is spent alone or solely with caregivers if they’re aging in place? How many hours/week are you and your family available to attend to your folks’ needs, including their social needs?
When asked, 90% of seniors say they’d rather stay home than move to “an institution.” When you put it that way, who would want to leave their familiar homes and things and have to move? But there are REAL dangers to health and well-being that may plague those who stay home, especially if they infrequently see friends or family, or lack organized community support to take them to needed appointments and offer other attention. Without planned activities, people visiting, things to feel inspired by and good about, most of us begin to wither. For our seniors, these same conditions can be even more overwhelming, leading to early death, depression and the worst of our fears.
Researchers have just reviewed 23 studies in the journal Heart and determined that: “loneliness and social isolation increase the relative risk of having a heart attack, angina or a death from heart disease by 29 percent, and the risk of stroke by 32 percent.” There were no differences reported between how much this may harm men and women. The obvious conclusion: We are social creatures and everyone needs some care and attention!
Are you as a senior or your aging loved ones feeling isolated in your home? How will you know that? And if that is so, what can you do differently? Or, how can you and your family think differently about their loneliness and isolation?
If you or a loved one is feeling lonely or isolated at home, don’t ignore this important research! Denial will not make anything better. Instead reach out to your family members. Start the conversation by getting some help from one of our experienced Certified POP Family Coaches and/or other geriatric specialists to discover different options that will keep you all feeling safer, healthier and happier. Sometimes that first call for connection is the hardest; but it’s well worth it!
If you like what you’ve read here and are interested in reading more, buy the book, “Oh My God! We’re Parenting Our Parents: How To Transform This Remarkable Challenge Into A Journey of Love.”