Emotional well-being is a key part of healthy living
In the most fundamental ways, in terms of how we feel inside, social and emotional functioning change little with age. As social animals, humans have a strong desire to feel embedded in a larger social group. Yet in the most practical of ways, social and emotional life does change with age. According to Brenda Connelly, RN and Director of Quality Assurance with The Springs Living, “As we grow older, getting out and about becomes more difficult and our social networks shrink, and as a result, we become more reliant on our closest friends and family for socializing.”
If you are the family caregiver, you might notice that compromised physical functioning can cause social activities that once were completed with ease to become difficult and frustrating for your loved ones. For example, sensory losses may cause strain on conversations and physical limitations may cause one to isolate or opt out of participating in a social activity.
Understanding these changes that come with age demands consideration of looking at both the physical and mental states of your loved one. “Noticing these trends can help you better determine if your loved one would be better off in a community with trained personnel who understand, recognize, and support these changes better than you might be able to do at home,” says Connelly.
Here are some ways you can help your loved one remain active and emotionally well as they age:
Introduce and offer up new activities. If your loved one is no longer able to participate in physical activities that once brought them great joy, consider introducing a new activity that they can accomplish with more ease. Spending time together, watching a movie, eating out are all ways to engage with your loved one and distract them from the activities they used to do but that are no longer within their reach.
Look into a community that truly understands the effects of aging. “By the time a family caregiver tours our communities, they are often frustrated and strained with obligations, fatigue, and perhaps even guilt,” explains Connelly. “When you move your loved one into a care community, it helps both of you have a better relationship. You’re no longer the caregiver; you’re the daughter or the son again. Mom or dad can enjoy your visits and also spend time with other adults who are in the similar place in life as they are.”
Recognize that emotional health is just as important as physical health. “Even if the physical appearance and capabilities of your loved one have not changed much, it’s important to check in with them emotionally. Being alone in a large home, or trying to get around town when it has become harder, can actually impact their emotional state more than you might realize,” explains Connelly. “The ‘Silent Generation’ may have trouble communicating how they feel. It really takes sitting down with an expert to draw that out and move forward with a plan to break out of those feelings of loss or isolation.”
If your life is such that you cannot commit to full-time care or providing stimulating activities, then it may be time to investigate community living. The right environment may surprise you with positive effects on your loved one as well as on you.