Loneliness in older age

Head of HP Homecare Michele Jogee (RN) is expressing her thoughts on loneliness in older age.

Having spent my career within healthcare I have experienced patients/clients recover from acute conditions and equally manage a quality-of-life coping with chronic disease.

However, one of the greatest causes for decline that I have witnessed in patients, has been due to loneliness in older age.
The demographics in our society demonstrate that due to achievements with medical research people are living longer attributed to modern medicine. Housing options for older people vary from residential home to nursing home where the older adult requires 24-hour care, to a more independent style of living in sheltered or assisted living developments.
All the above have positives and meet needs for older people living with physical disabilities or frailty due to older age and moreover alleviates loneliness in older age.
Alas there is an increasing number of older people who would choose to remain living within their own dwelling and would prefer with the necessary adaptations to end their lives ‘at home’

Home is ‘where the heart is’ and many older people take comfort from being surrounded by memories of their family and friends. Older people recover faster from illnesses when they leave hospital and return to the comfort and safety of their own home where their surroundings are familiar, and they can regain confidence with mobilisation.
Many older people regain an appetite when they leave hospital and return home.
That said we know that solitary eating in older age can be a cause of loss of appetite as can lack of mobility be a cause of dehydration due to not drinking enough fluid to prevent incontinence. This can then lead to a decline in the physical health of the older person.

Therefore, bringing care and support into one’s own home has proved to be positive for the physical and emotional well-being of some older people. Following thorough assessment of the individual and the home environment suitable and tailored care packages are produced ensuring that needs will be met be it medical support or companionship, and any risk will be minimised. Personalised programmes of care plans are produced and explanations of how that works as this can be a daunting experience for many families. Matching the care worker/nurse to the older person in terms of interests and personality can lead to great success and longevity for the elder.

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