Loneliness is different than being alone. Your parent may not mind living alone or going places alone. In fact, many people enjoy the independence that comes with doing things on their own. Loneliness is usually caused by a feeling of not being connected with a community, whether it’s a family, the neighborhood, or the community. If your parent has expressed that she sometimes feels lonely, you can help her get connected with those around her to reduce those lonely moments that are a part of her life.
Depending on where your family lives in proximity of your parent, this may look different for each family. If you have family members that live near your aging parent, work together as a team to provide visits and connections that will provide bright spots throughout your parent’s week. If you can create a somewhat regular schedule, then even on the days when no visits are planned and your parent is feeling lonely, she can find relief in knowing that a visit is coming. If your family isn’t able to do physical visits, create opportunities for your parent to connect with them either over the phone or through video conferencing. Just hearing a caring voice or seeing a smiling face over the internet can be a cure for loneliness.
Finding connections in the community may seem hard at first, but with a little conversation with your parent, you might find some natural areas that she can connect with. Something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, having safely distanced conversations in driveways and on sidewalks can help her meet her neighbors. A home care provider can assist your parent in walking around if she needs a bit of assistance. While many indoor areas that used to provide connection points (such as local cafes or the library) are still closed, as the weather warms, your parent may find outdoor areas to connect with others such as gardens or parks.
If your parent likes to volunteer, this spring may be a chance for her to start volunteering again. She’ll still need to be safe with how she decides to volunteer but opportunities such as cleaning up a park or planting flowers in a local garden might give her a little bit of that community that she’s been missing.
Having a home care provider stop by your parent’s home for daily or weekly visits can give her someone to have a meal with or just sit down and catch up on the latest news and gossip. Home care providers are wonderful at relieving those feelings of loneliness with regular visits.
If your parent’s loneliness manifests itself into depression and causes her to start withdrawing from the things she enjoys or exhibit other behaviors of serious depression, a visit to her doctor will be needed to look for other possible resources to help her find contentment and joy again.