Unlocking the Power of Companionship

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Seniors who live alone often experience social isolation and feelings of loneliness, which causes their health to decline. Companionship is a key part of senior care, not just because companions provide assistance with daily tasks such as housekeeping, cooking and transportation, but also because they provide a meaningful human connection that greatly improves quality of life.



We all know that exercise, proper nutrition, and getting enough sleep help us stay healthy as we age. But did you know research shows that social interaction is one of the most important aspects of living a long, healthy life?


Most adults interact with several people a day who provide companionship such as coworkers, friends, and family members. However, for seniors, regular opportunities for social engagement usually diminish. They retire from jobs, children move away, friends and spouses pass away, and eventually they may become housebound if they lose the ability to drive or become ill.

INTRODUCTION:

Americans are living longer, and isolation poses significant risks. According to the United States Census, the rate of growth of the older population has surpassed that of the population as a whole (Werner, 2011). At the same time, the prevalence of living alone is on the rise, particularly among the older population. In 2018, 52 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, accounting for 16 percent of the total population. The older population in 2030 is projected to be more than twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 73 million and representing 21 percent of the total U.S. population. Life expectancies at both age 65 and age 85 have increased for both sexes and for Hispanics, non-Hispanic Whites, and non-Hispanic Blacks. Of our aging population: 25% of older adults feel isolated, and 30% say they do not have regular companionship.


THE PROBLEM:

Social isolation and loneliness in seniors are linked to physical and mental health decline. Recent British research shows that seniors who experience social isolation have an increased risk of premature death, regardless of underlying health conditions. Companionship provides seniors with a social connection that combats isolation and depression, and has significant impact on their overall health and well-being.


The National Institute on Aging says research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. It has also been linked to shorter life spans and slower recovery from illness or surgery.


THE SOLUTION:

New research shows that staying social has numerous mental and physical health benefits. The new study found that 60-year-olds who visited with friends almost daily were 12 percent less likely to develop Dementia than those who only saw one or two friends every few months.


Companion services can make a difference in the lives of seniors by:

1. Lowering the risk of heart disease

2. Longer Lifespans

3. Preventing Dementia

4. Faster Recovery

5. Peace of Mind


A senior companion can help with activities of daily living, offer medication reminders and assist with housekeeping. More importantly, a professional caregiver can also provide a senior with the invaluable chance to form a connection with a true friend. It is hard to overstate the health benefits of staying social for seniors. For older adults, remaining socially connected has been shown to improve mental and physical health in many different ways, and increase overall longevity.


While focusing on the health benefits of companionship is vital, it is also important to highlight how important peace of mind is for their family. Most seniors want to live at home for as long as possible, but this can be nerve-wracking for family members and caregivers. No matter how often you call, it isn’t the same as showing up each day to check on them. When you live far away from your loved one, it is difficult to check on them all the time to see how they are doing. But with elderly companion care, loved ones get peace of mind. You know there will be a trained professional visiting your loved one each day, so you never have to worry about them.


The human brain needs to be actively used, or it can start to decline, making seniors more subject to diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Research shows numerous benefits of companionship when it comes to mental health. By getting seniors to interact socially through senior companionship, you can help improve their memory. It takes as little as 10 minutes of conversation with someone to boost their memory. This same benefit can also be enjoyed by playing puzzles, games, or other thought-provoking activities.



Companionship for seniors plays an important role in the recovery process, while also preventing many of these accidents in the first place. Having companionship can help people recover faster from the pain of surgery. People recover more quickly if they have a companion or friend nearby assisting them through the process. When someone has a companion with them, they deal with less inflammation and nerve-related pain. Companionship care at home also gives people the social support they need to keep up their spirits as they heal. Through home companion care, individuals can enjoy faster recovery times and better health.


Sometimes, an elderly individual will live longer than their friends, spouse, or family members. This can potentially lead to an intense sense of loneliness and depression, which highlights the importance of companionship for seniors. These feelings are highly common among elderly people who live at home and have impaired mobility. When someone doesn’t have enough social interaction and stimulation, it is hard to care about grooming, eating healthy, or enjoying life. Over time, these feelings can lead to clinical depression. Elderly companion care is an important way to help seniors feel excited about their day-to-day living and keep them in an upbeat and happy mood.


A companion provides the senior with interesting conversation and a friend to be with them during difficult times. More importantly, the companion gives them something to look forward to on a daily basis. For seniors with mobility issues, at-home companionship is extremely important for their emotional and mental well-being. People are naturally more comfortable at home. The hard part is being able to live at home as health issues, mobility difficulties, and other problems start to develop.


With senior companionship services, your loved one can spend more of their golden years at home instead of in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you want to give your loved one or family member extra support during their golden years, consider getting them caring companionship.


Case Study


Mrs. B’s daughter found Helping Hearts by driving by our office and seeing our sign.

She was discharged from a local nursing home with a history of falls and presented as a current fall risk. Our goals and care plan included maximizing her independence, fall prevention, assisting her with laundry as her washer and dryer were in basement and socialization.


Mrs. B. lives with her husband who is her primary caretaker. Since we began services in 2018, we have gradually increased her hours to accommodate changes in her condition as she aged.


A few weeks ago, we had a surprise luncheon with this client and one of her longtime childhood friends. She absolutely LOVED it.


Providing companionship and household assistance has enabled Mrs. B to remain safe in her home with her husband who she cherishes!



Conclusion


Loneliness and social isolation are growing public health concerns in our ageing society. Whilst these experiences occur across the life span, 50% of individuals aged over 60 are at risk of social isolation and one-third will experience some degree of loneliness later in life.


Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for all-cause morbidity and mortality with outcomes comparable to other risk factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and high blood pressure. In addition, loneliness has been associated with decreased resistance to infection, cognitive decline and mental health conditions such as depression and dementia.


Whilst every individual will experience loneliness at some point in their lives to a certain degree research has highlighted that older people are particularly vulnerable to experiencing loneliness and social isolation. Approximately 50% of individuals aged over 60 are at risk of social isolation and one-third will experience some degree of loneliness later in life.


Taking proactive measures to fortify yourself against loneliness is the best approach. If you or your family member is considering in-home companion care as part of a plan to age in place contact Helping Hearts at Home today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

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About Helping Hearts at Home

Helping Hearts at Home provides companion care services (non-medical) to clients with chronic debilitating diseases (i.e., Alzheimer's/dementia, Parkinson's, Diabetes, and Arthritis). We provide both short-term (a few weeks) and long-term help for our clients. Helping Hearts at Home offers hourly, overnight and live-in companionship. Utilizing companion care enables clients to continue to live independently in their home or an assisted living facility with grace, dignity as well as safely.


For all general inquiries call 631-676-4400



Authors

Kelly Lanzon, RN President of Helping Hearts at Home has over 25 years’ experience in geriatric care in both home and facility-based care. Lanzon earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Molloy College in 1996. She is certified in case management since 2009. Kelly volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association and sits on the Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors for St. Catherine’s Hospital in Smithtown. Kelly also sits on the Board of Directors for Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.


Sharon Niman, RN, is President of ClinOps Consulting, a boutique healthcare consulting firm. Sharon earned her Nursing degree from Beth Israel School of Nursing in 1984. She is an accomplished executive in the home care and assisted living fields. After 30 years as an accomplished Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Non-Profit and For-Profit Licensed Home Care Agencies, Sharon opened a consulting firm specializing in supporting healthcare organizations manage their clinical operations in a profitable way.

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