Many of us have elderly relatives living some distance from us or we are so busy with young families and work that we do not have as much time as we would like to visit them. As they age and their social networks diminish, older people can become isolated – especially if they are no longer driving.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Otago, one in five frail elderly New Zealanders are lonely. The study surveyed about 72,000 elderly New Zealanders and found that more than 15,000 identified as lonely - just over 20 per cent of those surveyed.
One of the lead researchers of the study, Dr Hamish Jamieson said loneliness was recognised as having negative impacts on the lives of elderly people.
"Interactions with friends and neighbours are important and can help older people maintain their sense of independence and sustain the ability to look after themselves. In contrast, loneliness can make many health conditions worse, including pain, depression, anxiety and respiratory conditions," said Jamieson.
There has been a reduction in community networks and neighbourhoods due to the commitments of many people, and this is contributing to the number of frail elderly identifying as lonely, Jamieson said.
When I was working full time in Wellington and living in Kapiti, I was not able to visit my elderly mother as often as I would have liked. Although I spoke to her on the phone every day there were times when I felt very guilty that I was not able to support her in a more ‘hands on’ way.
A solution to this dilemma was to employ a companion who was able to visit a couple of times a week. Tina became a very important person in mum’s life as she was able to fulfil different needs to the other health and support people mum saw daily. Tina would read to mum, take her out for little drives to share a cup of tea out of a thermos while watching the waves at Waikanae beach and she also did little bits of shopping on mum’s behalf. Another important task on her job description was to ‘find lost things’. Mum was almost blind with macular degeneration, so lost all sorts of things all the time – once she had put it down it was gone! Tina also did a great job of rearranging mum’s clothing in her wardrobe and drawers to make things easier for her to access with her limited vision.
Tina became a good friend to mum but she became a friend to me too. She and I kept in regular contact discussing how mum was, what she needed and what Tina could do as well as what I could do. Even when mum moved from independent living into rest home care Tina continued to visit her.
If you have an elderly relative living in Kapiti that you feel would benefit from a regular visit, contact Time Genie and we can chat about how I could provide support for this person – while keeping you firmly in the loop.
Time Genie Personal Concierge Services
Ph: 022 394 8493