By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Ltd.
We hear it so often from family members before Mom moves into an assisted living community. Mom likes to be by herself; she is not the type to participate in the social activities offered by the community.
A few weeks after Mom has moved into the community, we get the phone call from a worried family member. Can you please check on Mom? I have been trying to call her in her apartment for the past several hours and she is not answering the phone.
Checking by a staff member finds that Mom is more than fine. She is out of her apartment enjoying life. After breakfast, she went to a morning exercise class. After class, she met up with another resident and they got to talking. Before they knew it, lunch time had arrived. Then it was time to get together with the other members of the community’s Wii Bowling team for a couple of hours of practice.
A resident of one of the assisted living communities that we manage decided not to tell her family that she was taking a class to improve her flexibility. Before starting the class, she could not lift her arms above her shoulder. By the time she was done, she was able to surprise her family members. They had come to visit and were sitting in her apartment. The resident showed off her improved flexibility by reaching up over her head to get a snack down off the top shelf of one of the cabinets.
The odds are that she would not have taken the exercise class had she been living alone.
Two residents of another community that BMA manages decided one afternoon that they would spend their time practicing how to pick up splits in Wii bowling. After a couple hours of practice, they reached their conclusion. You can pick up splits if you do it just right.
Of all of the services and amenities that come with living in an assisted living community, the opportunities for socialization and companionship are among the most important.
For those not living in assisted living, you can make arrangements for home-delivered meals. You can have someone come in to provide help with bathing and getting dressed and to do cooking and cleaning. You can set medications up in pill boxes and either call or stop in to check if a family member is taking their medications as they should.
But what about social interaction? What about the impact that loneliness and isolation has on older adults?
Studies by the University of Chicago (UIC)indicate that older adults who feel lonely face greater health risks. One of the studies indicates that loneliness is a major risk factor in high blood pressure among older adults.
A study by researchers at UCLA found that feelings of social isolation can negatively impact your immune system, causing a greater risk of viral infections, cancer and heart disease.
A psychologist notes that loneliness also can make it harder to sleep.
In a BBC News report, loneliness was labeled as the “hidden killer” of the elderly. The lack of social interaction left older adults more vulnerable to depression and at a higher risk of developing poor eating habits and getting less physical exercise.
Certainly, the research and what we see and hear from residents in the assisted living communities that BMA manages gives us something to think about as we hear a chorus of folks tell us that the best approach is taking care of older adults as they live alone in a house, condominium or townhouse.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of affordable assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”