You race through life when you are younger, you find happiness with a partner and bring up a family then in the later years of life personal circumstances change and you find yourself alone………..
Many of us reading this article may not be in the situation described above but may know someone, such as an elderly relative, who is. It is a sad fact that elderly people with no relatives close by can go many days without speaking to anyone, which is definitely not conducive to positive mental health and wellbeing. According to Age UK there are 1.4 million chronically lonely people in England, and more across the UK. Often caused by the death of a spouse, or onset of illness or disability, loneliness impacts dramatically on wellbeing and quality of life.
A social companion can make an enormous difference. Companions are not just carers, helping with daily tasks, chores and errands – although they can do all those things too. A companion will be able to take part in hobbies that an elderly relative may be keen to follow and will be able to drive them to social events such as coffee with friends, a trip to a National Trust property or any other place that sparks interest. Finding common interests to attend together are an important part of the friendship and trust that will grow over time.
Companionship will encourage mental stimulation and an increase in your relative’s self-esteem and sense of purpose. Social wellbeing is incredibly important and this doesn’t change as we get older. Developing and maintaining social bonds maintains that vital link between the home and the outside world – allowing elderly people to feel they are still part of a wider community. This in turn will bring increased life satisfaction and a more positive outlook.
It is easy for elderly people to lose their dignity as they lose their independence but a sensitive and respectful companion can help to restore that by allowing them to maintain their freedom without leaning too heavily on friends and family. An interesting statistic from the Alzheimer’s Association found that a large majority of people are more afraid of being a burden to their loved ones as they age (71%) than they are of passing away (46%).
The same study even found a strong correlation between improved physical health and strong social bonds, where elderly people were less at risk of developing a host of age-related conditions including Alzheimer’s, oseteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and some kinds of cancer. They were also more likely to maintain physical mobility and to engage in “positive health-seeking behaviour”, such as eating healthily and getting medical check-ups.
Of course it’s not only your elderly relative who will benefit from having a companion. If you live too far away to make a regular journey to check in on them yourself because of work or other commitments, knowing that there is someone else there to share the load alleviates a lot of the worry that can so easily impact negatively on your own wellbeing.
Help and support
If more support is required such as a daily companion to help with shopping, cleaning and most importantly that one to one connection, Parental Choice can help. If your family needs help, Parental Choice can find a companion to support an elderly relative in the home. This will alleviate anxiety for your family as you will know your loved one is being cared for and most importantly has that personal interaction during the day.
Lindsey Abbott – Eldercare Researcher, Parental Choice.
Polly Collingridge – Intercultural Wellbeing Resources Associate, Parental Choice
For advice on care for the elderly get in touch or see our useful resources.
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