Listen and keep them company Listen and keep them company

Whether it is at a distance or if you live with your parents and grandparents, it is important to understand their shortcomings and fears so you can connect with them.

Medical advisors
Catalina Acevedo Pasos
Clinical psychologist, specialist in Palliative Care Psychology

With time, individuals go through different grieving processes in their lives. Adulthood also brings with it some situations that can cause feelings of loneliness, which can affect quality of life.

Catalina Acevedo Pasos, clinical psychologist and specialist in Palliative Care Psychology, explains that for elderly adults there is “a moment in their life cycle when there is a series of losses, facilitating the arrival of subjective loneliness. That is, the perception of loneliness, of feeling alone, which causes suffering because it is not a desired situation. It is different from objective loneliness, which is related to the lack of physical company, for example living alone, which does not imply an unpleasant experience if it is a desired situation.”

Therefore, it is time for friends and family to feel close, even if they are far away. Phone calls from children or family members during the day will send the message that they are important. Asking about their day, their feelings and emotions, and their concerns will make the person feel heard and valued. Also, as a result of their life experience, elderly adults like to be asked for stories. This is another way to be closer to them.

Some people also enjoy technology, making videocalls a good way to feel close when there is physical distance. This helps minimize the feeling of subjective loneliness.

In order to better understand this feeling, you need to understand that subjective loneliness can be associated with the loss of privacy (care dependency), social inclusion (retirement, death of friends, and situations which decrease participation in social spaces), emotional support (family dysfunction, nuclear family’s misunderstanding of the elderly adult’s evolutionary process), autonomy (feeling they are not considered when making decisions, feeling useless), as well as biological losses associated with illness or the functional deterioration and death of loved ones which leads to the confrontation of one’s own death.

Protection and hope

The specialist confirms that “starting at the age of 65, there is an increase of risk factors associated with anxiety (with a prevalence of 10 to 20%), depression (from 1 to 3%) or dementia (8%). These are related to the perception of a loss of control of their life, limitations in functionality due to chronic illnesses, feelings of uncertainty, and fear of illness and death.”

That is why it is important to have a close-knit environment and “emotional support from those close to them, which influence elderly adults’ quality of life by giving them a feeling of protection, wellbeing, and hope. When they have company during their procedures, medical appointments, and support adhering to treatments, it helps them have greater control of the chronic illnesses that start appearing; and it favors their role in the family as well as their autonomy, as long as it is respected,” states Catalina Acevedo.•

Support them with actions

Strengthen satisfying social and family relationships so that they are high-quality and loving.

Do household activities that include your grandparents in daily family life and that allow them to feel like they are still functional and important.

Think about the role of grandparents within the nuclear family by considering them as an authority in the family decisions. Do not exclude them.

Encourage religious practices to foster feelings of hope and peace of mind.

Encourage communication with children or family members who do not live with them through the use of technology.

Make frequent visits to places for sporting, cultural, recreational, and social activities. This will also allow them to spend time with their peers, making them feel identified and like they have a sense of belonging to these groups.

If they are at home, support them by doing physical activity that is appropriate for them.

Support them in their daily tasks with patience and love, respecting their independence and offering support delicately and with understanding.