You’ve likely heard someone say, “Are you counting the days or making the days count?” This type of question is really all about assessing the quality of one’s life. Elders can be especially vulnerable to major shifts in their quality of life because so many circumstances contribute to living a full life or not in this season of life. Sometimes it takes an intuitive loved one to recognize the signs of an elder that is struggling in this way. Here are a few critical questions that you can use to have regular “check-ins” with your loved one to ensure their quality of life is at its best.
1. Do you struggle with loneliness?
Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Everyone requires alone time every now and then to recharge. Instead, loneliness is the desire for companionship that is not available. The process of aging is riddled with loss as peers are declining in health, moving away or even passing on. Loneliness is something that even the most connected senior may face as their circle of friends shrinks or their own mobility changes. Meanwhile, adult children often begin to carry the burden of balancing their own busy lives as well as nurturing the social needs of their parent. It’s a hard truth but you need to understand that no matter how attentive an adult child may be; they cannot fill this void on their own. God created us to be in community with one another saying in Genesis, “it is not good for man to be alone.” It’s not a surprise that there is an emotional toll on elders suffering from prolonged isolation but there can also be tremendous repercussions to one’s physical and intellectual well-being as well as. Studies have shown that loneliness is as dangerous as smoking when it comes to the negative effects it can have on health and can even significantly increase the risk of dementia.
2. Do you struggle with boredom?
Boredom is the result of a life that lacks spontaneity or variety. Those who suffer from extreme boredom may not see the point of getting out of bed until late in the day or take naps as often as possible to simply pass the time. Others may have habits that include watching television constantly to just fill the space with noise and something to concentrate on while others maybe drawn to over indulge on shopping, eating or screen time. It may look different from person to person, but it’s all some form of coping with boredom. If left unattended the entire body will begin to suffer the consequences. When bored, the mind seems to camp out in worry, linger in sorrow and lay dormant with little stimulation to pull forward the type of thinking that keeps us emotionally and intellectually healthy. Ultimately, boredom dramatically increases the risk of depression, anxiety and a diminished sense of satisfaction with life.
3. Do you ever experience helplessness?
Helplessness is the when someone only receives care and doesn’t have the opportunity to give care in return. We often think we are helping when we step in to support elders throughout the aging process, however, when not done properly, we can do unintended damage to their well-being. Imagine that someone helps you with everything you ever need, big tasks and small. Sounds good right? Maybe at first, but eventually you may feel your sense of personal value diminish without regular opportunities to contribute. Finding ways to give back, playing a role in something bigger than ourselves, or simply supporting the needs of another are some of the best parts of the human experience. As we age, and more people step forward to care for us, we can lose the joy of also caring for others. Think about it like a sense of purpose. A reason to feel like your gifts, talents, and efforts are valuable. We all long for something meaningful to be a part of, now imagine not having that in your life. If elders are missing this very important piece of the puzzle, it is likely that their quality of life is lacking.
Once you have reviewed these topics with your loved one you’ll need to be prepared for how to take action if they answer “YES” to any of these questions. It’s simple, the answer to boredom is companionship (either animal or human), the answer to boredom is occasional variety or spontaneity and the solution for helplessness is regular opportunities to give back. Don’t delay these important conversations, your loved one’s quality of life depends on it.
Living in a retirement community can ease the impact of loneliness, boredom and helplessness. Call PineCrest to learn more! (936) 634-1054