Fighting Boredom, Loneliness and Helplessness

By Chris and Laurie Kemp, CSAs

Helping Elderly Fighting Boredom Loneliness and Helplessness Twin Cities MNIn “Being Mortal, one of our recommended books back in 2015, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas. Thomas was a first time administrator at a nursing home. After a short time of observation he decided the three things he needed to do to most help residents were to help them fight “boredom, loneliness, and helplessness.” He called these the “three plagues of nursing home existence.”

As I was reading this it occurred to me that these “plagues” as Thomas calls them, are not limited to nursing homes. We can be afflicted by them in our home of fifty years, our apartment, even our assisted living community. The key to avoiding these as we age is to properly assess our situation.

Boredom – can you continue to participate in or get to activities you like where you are living? Many activities we do are as much about the social aspect as they are the doing of the activity. Even if you can no longer quilt you can still participate in the conversation. So find a ride to meet with other quilters or find a senior community that has a group of quilters.

Loneliness – are you able to get out to see people or get them to come and see you as often as you would like? This can be one of the biggest challenges when mobility decreases, whether it is that you stopped driving or you need a walker or wheelchair. If you have a wide network of mobile friends this can happen at home, but moving to senior living or assisted living community provides access to friends and activities that are tough to match if you are living alone.

Helplessness – are you able to do the normal activities of daily living by yourself or by bringing in help? If you live alone do you have a plan for getting help if you had a medical emergency? In home care and technology, like emergency response pendants can go a long way to help avoid helplessness, but you also need someone who will just check in on you frequently. This helps avoid the situation of not being able to call for help. Most senior communities offer this as a key part of their service.

Addressing these issues is as important as addressing health and safety issues. Choice Connections can help families think through these questions and decide if now is the time to move or get some in home care.

All excerpt are from: Gawande, Atul. “Being Mortal.” Henry Holt and Company.

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