Elderly Care Kuel Category Expert: Cynthia Perthuis
Now that the entire world has been quarantined and isolated for weeks at a time, can we talk about how our parents may have been isolated for months before the world shut down?
Have you ever used the phrase “My mom/dad is a real homebody? They love puttering around the house.” If I had told you a year ago that you would have the opportunity to putter around your own home and really get a way from it all for a while, you might have really gotten excited.
Hmmm, not so exciting now!
As you know, I like to use musical references in my presentations. I can’t think of a better one to describe the way my life has been lately than a classic Billy Idol tune.
“So let’s sink another drink
Cause it’ll give me time to think
If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance
And I’ll be dancin’ with myself”
Sheltering In Place Presents Challenges
There are physical and mental challenges for all people sheltering in place – both young and old, sick or well, mentally strong or cognitively challenged. These challenges around social isolation and loneliness will continue after the pandemic is abated. There are some old-fashioned ways you can help your parents, during pandemic or post-pandemic, keep the loneliness demons away and to learn to dance with yourself.
“there is a difference between living alone and loneliness”
Remember, there is a difference between living alone and loneliness. Humans need to see, discuss, and physically touch friends. Life now can feel more like survival. Life for an isolated senior adult has always been about survival. Loneliness is not just a feeling. Just like hunger warns you to find food and thirst warns you to find water: loneliness warns you to find human connection. Connections are essential for survival.
7 Simple Ways To Help You Stay Connected With Your Elderly Loved One
- It’s a Hallmark moment: Go back to basics. Send a card(s), write a letter, send flowers.
- Speak flowers: If you are physically close to your parents, go plant some flowers near a window so they can see them (and you in the dirt).
- Pick up the phone: Set a regular time for a phone discussion. Talk about the mundane. Discuss politics. Chit chat about the weather. Reminisce over a holiday. Tell a joke. Gossip about your cousin.
- Start a family book club: Find a book that the entire family would enjoy. Set a regular time to discuss the book as a family by conference call, or the ever-present Zoom.
- Let your parents put your children to bed: Ask them to tell your child a story about something fun, scary, funny that happened to them when they were a child.
- Go to the movies: Netflix Party allows you to set up a group watch for a movie and it includes a chat feature so you can talk about the movie while it is playing. No one will even shush you for talking at the theatre.
- Dance like no one is watching: If you have the ability to use a video program with your parent, put on some music and get everyone to virtually dance together.
Science Doesn’t Lie
“part of this exercise is to keep an eye on your loved one”
In a 2015 report from Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Brigham Young University, it was found that social isolation led to an increase rate of mortality. The study analyzed seventy studies, involving 3.4 million people. The results indicated that social isolation increased the rate of mortality by twenty-nine per cent and living alone increased mortality by thirty-two per cent—no matter the subject’s age, gender, location, or culture. Other studies show that prolonged social isolation is as detrimental to your health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and can prompt cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, or premature death. Isolation can cause a forty-per-cent increase in the risk of dementia.
Use your imagination and come up with your own simple ways to stay connected. Remember that part of this exercise is to keep an eye on your loved one. Regularly staying in contact allows everyone to be engaged and social but it also gives you the ability to watch for the warning signs that loneliness is taking an unhealthy toll on you parent.
About the Author
Cynthia Perthuis left her cushy life in Corporate America in 2018 to use her personal experience with her parents and her entrepreneurial background to help the 10,000 people a day turning 65 in the US. The stress of helping aging loved ones and working full-time and caring for her own family while living over 1500 miles apart was overwhelming at times. She often wished there was a non-conflicted industry professional to help when facing these life-changing decisions. She has created her team at Senior Care Authority (www.scanyfl.com) for that purpose. Her team supports over 300 families a year as they navigate these decisions.
Cynthia is originally from Texas and holds a degree from Baylor University. She has made her home, for the past 18 years in New York City and recently added a home in Southwest Florida. She enjoys travel and outdoor activities and has practiced yoga regularly for over 15 years.