Monday, November 27, 2017

Loneliness: Let Someone Know You Care (Research, Video 3:57)

Loneliness, an unpleasant emotional response to isolation, is a topic that is often avoided, even though everyone has probably experienced it at some time. As a hospice volunteer, I have seen many lonely older adults. Research on loneliness suggests that not having positive social relationships in one’s life is a significant risk factor in terms of “broad-based morbidity and mortality.” An important factor is how the person perceives social isolation. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. As the older adult population continues to age and decline in health, perceived loneliness can impair executive functioning, sleep, and mental and physical well-being.

The following includes an excerpt from my book from a chapter exploring the importance of being remembered and other emotional nourishment patients need to feel whole.

“Everybody at the senior citizen center asks about you all the time,” I read aloud to Jeannine from a letter she had received earlier that week. “We still meet every week to play bridge and gossip. It’s not the same without you. People say you were the best bridge player. These days, even I’m winning games. Last week, we had our annual spring party. The last time you came, the two of us ate most of the cookies and didn’t feel embarrassed at all (smile). We sure had some good times together.”

Jeannine stopped me to explain everything, just in case I hadn’t understood what I had read. “See, I learned how to play bridge a long time ago when hardly anybody I knew was playing. My friend Laura taught me because she needed a partner to play with her. I learned as a favor to her and to make new friends. I guess I caught on fast. Next thing I knew, I was teaching her a few things. I remember eating those cookies, too. And they were delicious. We played pranks all the time. We were just a bunch of overgrown kids having a ball cracking jokes whenever we got together.”

Jeannine had been going to the center for sixteen years. Now, she was in a nursing home away from the buffet of fun they had created. But none of that mattered today. What mattered was that they still cared about her, and she had this cherished letter to prove it. She experienced a mental feast of enjoyment. I smiled, knowing her satisfaction was caused by something she had eaten, something called love food.”

© Frances Shani Parker

This video explores a resident's loneliness and the importance of being remembered.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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