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How caregivers support mental health when working with seniors

Mental health is critically important at any age, but seniors face a specific set of obstacles to wellness—particularly if they live alone. An extensive survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2016 indicated that over 1.4 million elderly individuals in Canada reported having feelings of loneliness and isolation. In response to this research, psychologist Ami Rokach was quoted by the CBC as saying, “​​People who are 80 years and older say that up to 80 per cent of the time they feel lonely — it’s a major problem.”

The same CBC article included the following revelation:

Loneliness itself doesn’t directly cause health problems but Rokach explains that depression, desperation, feeling unappreciated and unwanted can cause seniors to neglect their health or resort to unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, drinking or not taking their medication…beyond depression and general psychological distress, health issues such as hypertension, sleep disturbances, and even dementia are worse when someone is lonely.

Additional research indicates that there is a serious connection between isolation and quality of life, including physical health. As one report notes:

Isolated seniors are more prone to serious illnesses like chronic lung disease, arthritis, and impaired mobility…Loneliness can also cause seniors to spend more time indoors and avoid physical activity. This lack of exercise can lead to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other issues.

As serious as all of this sounds, it’s actually even more concerning today. This research and reporting was done before the pandemic, which exacerbated the situation by creating even more isolation among seniors.

What you can do to help loved ones thrive as they age

Isolation is a bigger threat to the well-being of elderly Canadians than alcoholism, obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That said, congregate living isn’t for everyone and in many cases, seniors who live in group settings feel just as lonely as those living independently. So how do we support our aging loved ones in order to protect their physical, cognitive and emotional health?

The answer is joyful companionship: quality time spent talking and sharing stories, playing cards or board games, going on walks or running errands, or perhaps simply enjoying a cup of tea together. It’s kindness, connection and laughter. While family members may provide this type of companionship during visits, it’s often not enough. Younger family members have jobs and children to attend to, making it hard to provide consistent companionship to aging loved ones. This is why Living Assistance Services offers joyful companionship as part of our comprehensive service offering. Our Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are available to provide supplementary care and support to seniors, whether they live independently in their own home or within a retirement or nursing facility.

Every senior’s needs are different—introverted individuals may prefer quiet companionship in their home while more extroverted seniors enjoy chatting up a storm. Our caregivers let each client take the lead, providing companionship that reflects their personality and comfort level. And naturally, our caregivers will also take care of your loved one’s personal care needs as well as handling meal preparation or light housekeeping duties. It’s one-on-one support on all levels, delivered with compassion and respect.

Contact us to learn more about in-home caregiver services

Wellness is something everyone deserves regardless of age and stage of life, and one thing is clear: isolation is hurting seniors. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be this way. Between the love and care of family members and the support of a dedicated PSW from Living Assistance Services in Toronto and the GTA, your aging loved one can avoid isolation and enjoy strong, healthy relationships that improve their quality of life.

To learn more about in-home caregiver services in Toronto and the surrounding areas, please contact us 24/7. We’d be pleased to offer a personalized consultation at no cost to you.

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