“I feel so isolated.”
This was mom’s response after hearing of yet another family invitation I’d received by text. Mom’s eyesight does not allow her to participate in emailing, texting or Facebook, which in this age of communication through social media is a problem.
After dad died, invitations came through me and for mom, it was one more loss. Instead of serving as “social secretary”, a role she loved, she was learning about family gatherings second hand. I immediately let relatives know mom’s feelings and asked them to call her with invitations. Do I still get invites over social media? Yes. But family members call her as well and these calls always turn into a longer conversation that brightens her day.
Feelings of isolation are prevalent in our aging loved ones for a variety of reasons. Loss of mobility which leads to limited social engagements and meeting new people is one cause. The biggest is the death of family and friends. I remember my Great Aunt Louise saying “I just don’t want to be the last one”. I’ve heard my mom say the same thing. It is incredibly hard on our elders as the circle of people that know them and share their history gets smaller and smaller.
Whatever the cause of isolation, or feelings of loneliness, it can lead to serious consequences. Our seniors run a higher risk of chronic illness, depression, problems with sleep, even eating disorders which can all be an outgrowth of isolation and loneliness. And it can be more pronounced during the holidays, especially when families live at a distance and won’t be together.
As caregivers and the people responsible for our aging loved ones, we put their physical health and safety at the top of the “to do” list. Busy lives limit the amount of time we can spend being ‘in the moment’ with them when we are always rushing to get all the tasks accomplished. And yet, shared moments are critical to our senior’s mental well-being. These shared moments are especially difficult if you don’t live close or your senior is in a facility. So how do you stay connected?
I have been introduced to a tool that allows you to share moments as they happen with the people who can’t be there. It means your senior knows that although not physically present, they are always on your mind. And it can help ease the transition of moving to a new place. This type of move often results in a depth of grief at the loss of their old life and it can be hard for them to get beyond it.
Paula Muller of Sociavi has such a tool. Designed as a picture frame, unlimited family and friends can send photos and video directly to Sociavi without your senior needing any technical knowledge. The app for sending files works on both iPhone and Android. In addition, there is a medication reminder and soon you will be able to “video chat”, all without your senior needing to do anything.
Here are some examples of how Sociavi has made a difference:
- One senior has a son living in Montana while she is here in New Jersey at an assisted living facility. It was hard to stay connected since her son can only travel East twice a year. Phone calls were frustrating because mom is hard of hearing. Texting was out due to mom’s eyesight. And she could not get the hang of voice-to-text. Her son was at his wits end when the activities director told him about Sociavi. Now he sends mom pictures and videos from the beautiful outdoors in Montana.
- Facilities have found Sociavi useful as well. There is an assisted living facility in New Jersey with a progressive program for engagement. Currently, they are using Sociavi as messaging boards. At any time, residents can see pictures of themselves, which brings back memories and gives the senior a chance to share their story with other residents.
Sociavi is a great way to stay connected to loved ones. Be sure to follow up with a phone call to have that “in the moment” conversation about the latest picture or video.
Forbes: 7 Tips to Help Beat Your Aging Parent’s Loneliness
A Place for Mom: 20 Facts about Senior Isolation That Will Stun You
Comfort Keepers: Combating Loneliness in Seniors
A Place for Mom: 14 ways to Help Seniors Avoid Isolation
Daily Caring: How To Prevent Social Isolation in Seniors
The Effect of Social Isolation and Aging in Place
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.