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Combating Loneliness in an Aging Parent

There are times when solitude is welcomed, but if it goes on for too long, loneliness sets in and that can eventually lead to depression. There are ways to help your loved one combat that feeling of loneliness.

There are ways to help your loved one combat that feeling of loneliness. You may be able to help your aging relatives with yard work or taxiing them to doctor’s visits and picking up groceries. Frequent visits, walks and short shopping trips help alleviate that housebound feeling as well. It’s hard to see your aging relatives struggling and helping them cope with being alone, especially if they are widowed, can be crucial to their health and well being.

Studies have shown that the elderly who are isolated typically experience more health problems than those who have strong family ties or outside interests in which they are involved. What can you do to help your aging parents feel more involved and connected when you simply can’t be there? We have some ideas:

  1. First, you need to recognize that you cannot solve the entire issue. You can certainly go visit, make phone calls or even set them up with an easy to use computer from which you can Skype or video chat with them. Video chatting is a great way to not only stay connected, but is also a way for you to subtly monitor their health when you can’t be there.
  2. Check for senior centers in their area and look into both the activities it provides as well as whether there is transportation available to and from the center. If your parents are involved in the church, they may want to volunteer as a way to stay connected and involved.
  3. As we age there may not be as many opportunities to socialize as when we were younger, but that doesn’t mean they can’t sign up for trips to the local theater or a visit to the farmer’s market. Ask them what they’d enjoy doing and see what can be done to arrange transportation to and from if they don’t drive any longer.
  4. You don’t have to be the constant hub of the family communication tree. Ask family members to “sign up” for a day of calling to check in on your relatives, whether in person, by phone or video chat. Enlist your siblings and other family members to help out with housekeeping or shopping duties. See if a family member who lives closer might be willing to pitch in and help out with driving your relatives to the doctor’s or to volunteer activities.
  5. If your parents are in poor health or have suffered a health problem ranging from a trip or fall accident to diabetes to a heart condition, consider equipping the home with a medical alert system. For those days when you can’t be there, the medical alert pendant that your parent wears provides peace of mind in case there is a medical emergency.

Keeping in touch with your relatives is a great way to keep isolation at bay and help keep them healthier and able to age in place longer.