Many people view the later years of life as a golden age of relaxation and prosperity. Others see them as a humiliating time of physical and cognitive decline. Neither point of view is entirely right or wrong. Seniors are living longer and healthier lives than ever before, but they also face some challenges such as poverty, loneliness, and cognitive decline. Meeting the emotional needs of your senior loved one takes caring and creativity.
One way you can address your loved one's emotional needs is by strengthening his or her sense of community and connection. Aging can be a lonely and isolating process friends and loved ones move away or pass on. Older people may also have to stop driving due to physical or cognitive limitations. One way you can help is by providing transportation to places such as church, the grocery store, the beauty parlor and even the homes of friends. Encourage your loved one to volunteer for causes that interest him or her. Stay connected with your loved one through regular phone calls and letters. A pet may also give your loved one something to connect with and enhance his or her well-being.
Another way to meet your loved one's emotional needs is to help ensure his or her safety and security. Check to see that fire alarms in your loved one's home have fresh batteries and function properly. Consider installing a burglar alarm, especially if your loved one's neighborhood as a history of break-ins. Many seniors worry about falling at home. You can increase your loved one's confidence and reduce the risk of falls by installing grab bars in the bathroom and by removing any throw rugs around the house. You may also want to help your loved one purchase and install a personal medical alarm so that he or she can summon help with the touch of a button.
A sense of security is important to emotional health, but so is a sense of competence and mastery. Encourage your loved one to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Don't be too quick to take over tasks and chores your loved one is still capable of performing. Take an interest in your loved one's hobbies and activities. Make it a point to solicit your loved one's opinions and advice in conversation.
The emotional needs of older adults are not really so different from emotional needs of other age groups. Seniors want to feel a sense of connection with those they love. They want to feel safe and secure. And they want to feel as if their contributions make a difference. If you can help meet these needs, you will play a large role in keeping your loved one emotionally healthy.