Supporting your parent in overcoming loneliness is a meaningful and compassionate act that can lead to numerous benefits for their overall health, happiness, and quality of life. So, what can you do to help your struggling parent?
Before we get into some solutions, let’s really look at the problem. In the U.S., the AARP Foundation reported that around 28% of adults over 60 felt lonely in a 2020 survey. A study published in the journal “Heart” in 2016 found that loneliness and social isolation were linked to a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Lonely individuals may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a lack of physical activity, which can contribute to poor health outcomes.
Now that you have some depressing stats to consider, let’s examine the benefits of combatting loneliness. Reducing loneliness leads to a better attitude, deeper sleep, and improved life satisfaction. Social connections can enhance a person’s resilience in coping with stress. If your parent has a support system available, he or she is more likely to overcome obstacles and challenges. Engaging in conversations and activities with other people can keep your parents mentally active and enforce feelings of value and belonging. In turn, this can positively affect how your loved on interacts with other family members and friends, improving relationships and shared bonds. Your parent will probably feel more capable to navigate life.
We’ve covered the risks associated with loneliness and the benefits of overcoming these feelings of isolation. So, what can you do to improve your parents’ feelings of seclusion? Here are some ideas!
Spend quality time. Carve out time with your mom or dad to do things they enjoy, like going for walks, watching movies, or playing cards. Have meals together. When my dad passed away, my husband and I set up weekly dinners with my mom, and we took turns cooking. It was a good mid-week break for all of us, and we each got to explore our culinary passions!
Encourage volunteering. Helping others is a wonderful way to connect with people and make a positive impact! Help your parents find local opportunities that align with their interests. My aunt loves animals and she spends Sunday afternoons at the local animal shelter, taking dogs for walks and giving cats belly-rubs.
Explore learning. Are there classes or seminars that your loved one might be interested in? Learning new things makes us feel useful and enlightened. This could lead to your parent pursing a degree or a new vocation! My mom takes computer classes at the library close to her house. It’s helped her gain confidence when dealing with technology.
Active listening. Encourage your parent to express his or her feelings and thoughts. Create a safe space for them to share their feelings. When I ask my mom how she’s doing, I make sure she knows that there’s no judgment and that I support her 100%.
Support their interests. Rekindling hobbies and exploring new activities is a great way to meet new people. Maybe the local library, church, or senior center offers a book club, bible study, or exercise class. Utilize Google to recommend things your parent can do, and offer to accompany them to the first activity. I helped my mother-in-law find a local water aerobics that she now goes to twice a week!
Hire a caregiver. Often our loved ones are struggling to find the motivation to clean the house or cook a meal. This can make it difficult to be social. There’s an elderly gentleman, Blake, that volunteers with me at the Salvation Army. He has a caregiver come to his home three times a week, helping out with household chores and preparing dinner for him. It’s given Blake the confidence and stabilization to do things he enjoys.
Remember that the process of overcoming loneliness is often gradual. Your consistent encouragement and support can make a big difference in your parent’s life! If you decide that hiring a caregiver is the solution to your parent’s loneliness, reach out to AdvanceCare to get more information about our Companionship Service! Our website is www.tnadvancecare.com A little bit of friendship can go a long way!