Growing old can sometimes be a very lonely process. Not everyone has a large family, or even a small one, to care for the aging generation of grandparents and great-grandparents. Often, the task of caring for an elder lands on just one person’s shoulders, and it is a heavy responsibility. It can involve becoming the Power of Attorney for the elder; being responsible for all his financial obligations, taxes, bills, health care, and so on. Unfortunately, this responsibility can often coincide with the age at which the caregiver’s children are in their teens or early 20’s and still needing some parental help and guidance.
It isn’t always easy to find answers. I have a couple of clients right now who are in their middle to late sixties, and are caring for mothers in their late 80’s. The daughters have their own physical difficulties, and find it very difficult to provide the physical care their mothers need. Neither of the daughters wants to put her mother in a facility, and I understand that, But sometimes, there really isn’t any other choice.
Loneliness is harder for some than for others. People who have always had lots of friends or family around them are deeply hurt when, as time passes, those people become absorbed in their own affairs and no longer have much time to spend with the elder. Visits can be too short, too infrequent to satisfy the need of the elder to have some sense of still being connected to others.
One of the advantages of an assisted living facility or a good nursing home is that there is opportunity for socializing with others. I know of people who are so glad they moved from their house or apartment into such a facility, because now they have found new friends and are no longer so isolated.
Many churches have shut-in visitation programs. They often do an outstanding job of staying in touch with elders who are unable to get out and who depend on people coming to them for social calls.
The fact is, however, that when most of the friends and family members of the elder’s generation have died, she can feel very lonely in a room full of people. All those she truly felt connected with have gone on, and she feels no one knows her any more.
I wish I had an easy answer for such a situation. I don’t.
I will say that if you know of a situation in your family, your church, your neighborhood, in which an older person who can’t get out much spends many days alone, you may be the one who can mobilize others in your family or organization to spend some time with that person. It is too easy for us to be so busy doing our own lives that we forget about those left alone with no one to talk with for too many days at a time.
We need to be aware, and we need to take care. None of us are getting any younger.
I think this will be the final post for now on the topic of aging. Not sure where I’ll go next, Should be interesting to see what comes to mind between now and next Friday 🙂