Nearly 30% of Americans over the age of 65 live alone, according to the most recent US Census Bureau report in 2010.
Health Concerns Associated with Living Alone
Although living alone doesn’t mean someone is incapable of leaving his home, it can lead to other health concerns such as feelings of isolation, depression, dementia, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and an overall decline in health. Shut-ins, in particular, are at a high risk for these negative health conditions, particularly seniors.
A shut-in is someone who is unable to leave his home due to physical, mental, or emotional reasons. The inability to leave can cause someone to feel lonely, sad, socially isolated, and cut off from the rest of the world.
While many of us are free to go to work, travel, eat out, attend a sporting event, or even go for a leisurely walk outside, shut-ins don’t have those options.
National Shut-In Visitation Day is today– February 11, giving us the the perfect opportunity to share ways we can help our beloved (and often forgotten) friends and family that are shut-in.
Often times, shut-ins don’t receive many visitors. Many senior shut-in’s social circle is greatly diminished due to retirement or death of family and friends. No matter the cause, it’s important to reach out and visit them.
How You Can Help
A simple visit will often uplift their spirits. There are several benefits from developing a companionship with a shut-in: It can help you grow closer to the shut-in, bring satisfaction for both of you, improve your relationship with one another, and help you learn more about what makes your friend/ loved one so special.
Because shut-ins are limited to going out into the world, we have to bring the world to them. Consider bringing photos of your family to share, a plant for someone who is unable to go outside, or a favorite card game. If you’re unable to bring anything, simply enjoy sharing your experiences with them about food, life, and hobbies. Let them feel like a part of something again.
Below are some tips to follow when visiting a senior shut-in:
- Show Empathy
Many senior shut-ins have had their worlds completely turned upside down. Going from an independent lifestyle to a small room where you’re limited on what you can do would be a struggle for anyone. Many have also lost many friends and family. Try putting yourself in their shoes. Be sympathetic and find ways to help.
- Visit Often
There’s no better way to show someone you love them that spending quality time with them and making them feel important, especially if the shut-in is your parent or a family member. Be creative and find ways to interact whether it’s playing a game, watching a show together, or just catching up.
- Be Optimistic
Feeling sad can be contagious, but so is being happy. Share your positive feelings with your shut-in loved one. Share funny stories or bring something that will lift their spirits like a favorite treat or a shared hobby.
- Get Outside
Many shut-ins who miss the outdoors. Although many are also home-bound, it is still possible to allow them to still experience this desire. Take them on a short walk down the sidewalk, or even on a scenic drive around the community. Point out familiar places that will make them happy.
- Be Thoughtful
It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day. Often, just showing up will bring a smile to a shut-in’s face. Go the extra mile and be creative. Think of fun stories to share, bring a favorite treat, or share a gift that relates to their favorite pastime hobbies. (For example, if they used to dance, bring a recording of it to watch together. If they love gardening, bring a favorite plant).
Do’s and Don’ts
Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable at first when making a visit. Here are some suggestions for making your visits more effective:
Don’t ask, “How are you” as many aren’t well. Try to avoid any potential negative answers.
Do say, “I’m here to visit with you for a while.”
Don’t wait for him/ her to initiate the conversation.
Do talk about good memories from his/ her life including their work, family, hobbies, and vacations.
Don’t stay standing, as this will give off the impression that you may be leaving quickly.
Do bring a book, a game, some photos, or a gift to share. This will help alleviate any awkward silences.
Do listen to them intently, helping them feel important and loved.
Do offer expressions of love– hug them often, smile, and offer words of encouragement.
It can often be lonely living as a shut-in. However, making consistent visits to a shut-in of any age can have a tremendous impact. Find opportunities today to visit someone in need. Visit PrimRoseCare.com to learn more about how you can get more involved.