It is no secret that friendships bring us joy. From the time we meet our first friends in grade school, companionship is always in the forefront of our minds.
For elderly individuals, there is an even more important reason to nurture companionships:
Close, constant companionship has been linked to helping stage off symptoms of depression in individuals over the age of 65.
It is important as a caregiver that you understand how you can play the role of companion for your loved one while still acting as a caregiver. You can also help your loved one by encouraging relationships with others.
Developing and maintaining friendships isn’t just so that your loved one has someone to enjoy hobbies with.
According to Dr. Karen Roberto, a gerontologist at the University of Northern Colorado, friendships are important for senior individuals because they help maintains good mental health. In a study of friendships among individuals ages 65 to 91, Roberto found that those who had several friends reported having greater feelings of worthiness, independence and general feelings of happiness more so than those who reported having fewer friendships.
Companionship Can Save Lives
Another positive aspect of having friendships can be lifesaving. Roberto explains: If an individual has regular contact with others, there is an increased chance that those friends will notice physical changes, changes in mood or absences that could be a sign of a problem. Also, those with friends are also more likely to share concerns of their own well-being or physical health.
What about pets?
Here’s something else for caregivers to consider: Beneficial companionships can also be found with pets, not just humans. The American Heart Association has found that those who own pets have a reduced risk of heart disease and depression. Studies have also shown that pets can lower blood pressure and elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin. Here is another interesting fact: Pet owners who are 65 or older reportedly make 30 percent less doctor visits those without pets.
Stay Connected With Friends
Caregivers should closely consider nurturing friendships for loved ones. Scheduling regular social gatherings, such as card games at senior centers or visits from neighbors, are great ways to ensure your loved one experiences the benefits of companionship on a daily basis. As you fulfill their physical needs, remember that by simply talking, playing a card game or looking at old family photos, you can also nurture your loved ones’ emotional needs by building a friendship with them.
We can help.
Friendship, companionship, and confidant: those are all shoes that caregivers fill. For more information on how you can find assistance in the multiple roles you play in the lives of your loved one, contact the health professionals at Freudenthal Home Health, where partnership in at home care is our top priority.