QUESTION: My 92-year-old grandfather lives alone. He’s always been healthy, but he got shingles last month and I’m beginning to see a decline. He’s always been adamant that he will never leave his home. What can I do to make his life happier if he truly never leaves home? Although one of us checks on him every day, I wonder if he’s lonely.
CURA ANSWER: Thanks for being such an advocate for your grandfather. It sounds like he’s been in good hands, and I’m not surprised he enjoys life at home.
Loneliness is very common for older adults at home. Your grandfather is having the same feeling a lot of older adults have. A great starting place to help with loneliness is by creating a schedule for some socialization/visits and exercise. Right now, it can be difficult to meet with people, but schedule a time each week to talk on the phone, over a video chat, or even in person if you feel safe doing that. Maybe you could arrange for him to video chat with distant friends or family.
Along with socialization, encourage exercise. Going for walks, taking care of plants, or exercise classes can show a great impact as well. If you combine those two, even better.
Since you are starting to see an overall decline, it would good to start looking at other areas he might be needing help.
Be proactive and see if there are ways you can help with areas now, before it is an emergency. If his mobility is only slightly hindered, go ahead and think about how his home could be adapted and what is some therapy he could do to build strength. It's easier to address these areas earlier and plan ahead. If his hearing is limited, go ahead and think of ways he could be alerted to a visitor or schedule that doctor's appointment now.
Hope these ideas give you a glimpse into how being proactive can safe lots of grief down the road. Thanks for all you’re doing; caring families are heroes!