Socialization is Essential for the Elderly
Have you ever been holed-up in your home for a couple days? Maybe you were sick, or made the choice to binge watch 6 seasons of your favorite TV show. Inevitably, that restless feeling nags at you – innately prodding you to seek fresh air and human contact. It’s a privilege that we can take for granted – our mobility – our ability to connect – our “human-ness.”
Socialization is as essential as food and water for human sustenance at any age. But, as people age and in some cases, lose the ability to independently venture out in the world, it can cause utter isolation. Socialization for the elderly is so important; it can get innocently overlooked by families who take measures to provide professional in home care, but don’t realize how essential outside social interaction is for their loved one.
A new client of Cerna’s had been well taken care of by a prior caregiver, but she spent 24 hours a day in her house with the caregiver. Understandably, she began behaving like a caged animal pacing restlessly and showing aggression. The isolation was also exacerbating her dementia. Cerna started her on outings with low stimulation in very calm places with one-on-one and one-on-two interactions. Then, she was taken to visit a residential facility for the elderly, where, at first, she did not do very well with a group of four ladies. Eventually, after 3 or 4 visits, she started to blossom in the environment – playing cards and picking oranges from the trees in the back yard. Soon she was asking, “When am I going back to visit?” The activity and camaraderie gave her something to look forward to; her behavior became less erratic.
Many times families with good intentions think they are doing what is best for their loved one by keeping them in their home. In some cases, this is precisely what is causing the isolation as their mom or dad sits there day after day in front of a TV. Situational depression develops because, “I am stuck here and I hate it.” Depending on their condition, they may not even be aware they are in their own home. Day programs are available and in some cases, assisted living could be a better choice for care and human interaction.
Another understandable misconception by families involves loved ones with aphasia. Some assume, because they cannot socialize, they do not need socialization. This is untrue. Human touch, enjoying music of their era in a group and simply sitting next to someone who is going through the same thing is beneficial and necessary. At Cerna’s residential care facility, people play “Go Fish” all the time – they are playing it completely wrong, but it’s all about the interaction.
Cerna Home Care thinks out of the box to find ways to improve quality of life – not just care. Remember Mario’s story? He had a brain injury, that left him with the capacity of an 8 year old. Before socialization, he was depressed – sitting alone waiting for anybody to visit. A year ago, Cerna’s Marc Friedman got him out and on the kart track. Today, he has a job! It is not for the money, it’s for socialization. Mario is motivated to go; he says “they need me at my job” – isn’t that a wonderful thing?