What difference can companionship make to older people?

In a previous article we looked at the devastating impact that loneliness and social isolation can have on an elderly person. In this article, we look at how companionship can help to combat that, and what a difference it can make to an older person.

Obviously the most effective way to combat loneliness for older people is for them to spend more time with other people. This might be getting in touch with old friends, seeing family members more, or making new friends. But it isn’t always as simple as that.

Keeping in touch with old friends can be tricky if neither the person in question nor their friends aren’t able to get around very easily. Lack of transport or lack of mobility can be a huge factor in elderly people experiencing loneliness. However, although it is not ideal, there is always the telephone – a chat with an old friend on the telephone might not be the same as seeing them in person, but it is still better than not nearing a voice at all. If both people are adept with technology then the internet is great way to stay in touch, using video chats such as Skype or via Facebook to see as well as speak to people. If you aren’t able to get around but your friends still are then why not invite them around for a cup of tea – don’t just wait for them to invite themselves or to turn up, as often people will not like to invite themselves. Family members could also help to take elderly people to visit their old friends, and if they haven’t got time or don’t live nearby then our companions are always more than happy to help by taking people to visit their friends.

We know that some people don’t want to be a burden to their families, which is why they can often end up not seeing them. This is where our companions can help. We like to think that our companions will become new friends to elderly people who otherwise wouldn’t get to see many people very often, and that the service that they provide will be seen as invaluable. They can also take the person they are looking after to places or events where they might meet other new friends, such as to a local club or group, like a bridge club, quiz group, singing group or bowls club, or to a day centre or a community event. If they are still relatively able bodied then this may even enable them to take up a hobby or activity again that they previously enjoyed but haven’t been able to take part in for a while, such as singing, walking, photography, or art, or perhaps try something new such as learning a new language, taking a course at a college or joining in a fitness classes for older people. Our companions can not only take elderly people to these places, but can even join in with them so that they take part in the activity together and not feel that they are doing it on their own.

For more able bodied older people, volunteering can also be a great way to combat loneliness, as can getting a pet. Volunteering can centre around a person’s interest, so might mean volunteering at a local theatre, or for an animal charity for example. Our companions can help find volunteering opportunities and take you to those places. Again, having a pet can be a great way to combat loneliness, helping to combat stress, anxiety, depression and provide companionship. As pets need a lot of care and attention then this might not be ideal for some people, but again our companions can help with looking after pets by feeding them and walking them and even taking them to the vet if needed.

Companionship can make such a dramatic difference. Even just a few hours per week can completely transform an elderly person’s attitude, outlook on life, state of mind and overall behaviour. It can improve a person’s mental wellbeing, and may even their physical wellbeing too, by allowing them to do things like go for short walks, do some light exercise or just get out of their chair and away from the TV for a while. This in turn can improve overall strength, reducing the risk of falls or mobility problems.

Companionship can quite simply mean the difference between an elderly person living well and enjoying life, and an elderly person not living well and just about existing or surviving. It means having someone to do things with. Having someone to just talk to. Having a reason to get up, get dressed, wash and look presentable. It gives them something to look forward to.  It can give them confidence to do things that they might otherwise feel frightened to do. It can give elderly people the chance to do the things they used to love doing in past but can’t do any more, not necessarily because they lack the ability or the desire, but because of something relatively easy to resolve such as they can’t get to the location, or they don’t want to go for the first time on their own when they don’t know anybody. It means they can get out there and start doing what they love doing again. All of this can leave elderly people feeling younger and more able. It can take them out of the house. Quite often, you can almost see the transformation happen overnight – the years can just drop off people, and in all likelihood this change can lead to people living a longer, and certainly a much happier life.

Companionship for elderly people can also make a big difference to younger people too – to sons and daughters who might otherwise have been racked with guilt. It means they can go away on holiday for a week, ten days or even a fortnight without worrying about their elderly parent. It means they don’t have to feel torn between being a parent and being a child, but they can dedicate themselves to their own kids without feeling they should instead be looking after their parent. It stops them worrying so much about their safety, and worrying that they might have fallen over and can’t let anyone know. And it means that they don’t have to think about having to put one of their parents into a care home – or at least they can put off doing it for much longer. That is the difference that companionship can make. It can be, quite simply, life changing.

Senior Help provide professional, dedicated and reliable companions to care for you or an older family member. We offer the the very best, carefully checked companions who are chosen specifically to suit you and your non-medical needs. Our companions are all experienced, deeply committed and passionate about enabling everyone to maintain their independence and enjoy later life. To find out more about how we can help you, please call us on 0800 254 5046, email us on info@seniorhelp.org.uk or visit our website http://www.homecaregivers.co.uk/

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