In the past few years, a term has popped up in the senior living community and healthcare worlds. The phrase "elder orphans" refers to seniors who do not have family or friends to support them as they age. Some prefer to stay at home, receiving assistance from in-home nurses and religious organizations. Others move to assisted living or other senior communities where they can be in constant contact with medical staff and individuals of similar ages. If you are a caregiver for a senior who doesn't have the support of friends or family, here are some tips for ensuring he or she is happy and healthy:
Don't just provide a service
While it may be in your job description to provide medication, assist with mobility and offer general help to your senior charge, he or she may really need some personal interaction. Without the phone calls and visits of loved ones, seniors may become lonely and depressed. Make sure you put in extra effort to chat and check on the senior's wellbeing. He or she will appreciate the small talk and knowing that you genuinely care.
Talk about plans
Seniors who are in contact with friends and family are more likely to have the necessary legal plans in place to make sure they are well cared for financially and medically until they pass away. Those who don't have access to loved ones may not have deemed power of attorney or shared their wishes about potential drastic measures. Who will know what to do if that individual is no longer able to make important decisions or care for him or herself? Caregivers can unite these seniors with people who can help, from professional senior guardians to elder attorneys that can assist in creating living wills and end of life plans. Having these documents in place can provide a sense of self and relieve stress and anxiety from aging individuals.
"Close proximity to other seniors provides community."
Encourage engagement in the community
If the person you are caring for is in a senior living community, he or she is in luck. This close proximity to other seniors can provide a sense of community, opening up chances to gain new friends and acquaintances. These residences offer plenty of ways to unite people, like fun activities, games and outings. Encourage the senior to get involved with the other people at the community. He or she can also consider volunteering for a cause, like walking dogs at a local animal shelter or creating hygiene kits for people in the homeless community.
If the individual doesn't find any exciting activities or organizations to get involved in, work with the community staff to create something that he or she would like. Perhaps there are others who would enjoy learning to salsa dance or going on a nature walk to spot migrating birds and wildlife. Helping seniors to feel connected with others can make a huge difference in their mental health, and happiness may even boost their physical well-being as well.