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5 Simple Steps To Help A Lonely Resident

As we move into the holiday season, and the days grow shorter and grayer, many residents may find themselves feeling a bit down an lonely. Here are five simple things you can do to brighten a resident’s day and keep the loneliness at bay.

1. Take the resident on an outing.
Something as simple as a trip to a coffee shop, going to see a matinee movie, or taking a short drive in the country can do so much to lift a person’s mood. Ask questions and encourage your guest to share stories from his or her life. Be a good listener and you can really make someone’s day. If a resident is not able to leave the facility, bring the outing to him or her. Get a take-out treat from a favorite local restaurant, or have a meal wrapped take-out style from your facility’s cafeteria. Pick up a red and white checked tablecloth at the discount store to add a festive, picnic element. Brightly colored plates, cups, or utensils add a nice touch, too.

2. Be a friend.
As caregivers, we do the best we can for each of our residents, but some days a resident needs you to go above and beyond. There are those awful days when pain is worse than usual, or they’re just feeling blue. Maybe personal issues are getting them down. See if you can free up a few moments in your schedule and sit down and visit with the resident. Let them know that, sure, you have other things you could be doing, but you choose to spend time with them. It could be as simple as chatting about the weather, or as involved as being a sounding board for whatever is worrying or bothering the resident. Think about a time when you were lonely, and how nice it would have been if someone had come along and said “I’m here for you.” Schedule a regular visiting time, or give the resident a specific time when you’ll be back to visit again. The lonely times go a lot faster if you’ve got something to look forward to.

3. Help your resident connect with others.
Arthritis and failing eyesight can make it hard for seniors to do things we take for granted, like writing a letter or making a phone call. Help a resident write a letter or email. Is your resident having trouble with a phone or cell phone? Offer to help w/ dialing, or write or type up a list of important phone numbers in large numbers.

4. Small gifts
Bring the resident a small gift like fresh flowers or a small potted plant. A little gesture can both brighten up their room and make their day. But–and this is important–Don’t just gift and run. Take a few minutes to visit with the resident. Let them know you were thinking of them and that you genuinely care about them. Then, when they look up and see your gift, they’ll remember your visit with a smile, and look forward to the next time you’re able to stop by.

5. Make contact
This suggestion takes a little more care and effort than the previous ones. If you can do so without violating HIPPA or your resident’s privacy, reach out to others on behalf of the resident, and see if you can arrange for friends or family to visit. Some residents are too proud to ask for help, or too upset or distracted to take the initiative on their own. Ask your facility’s SSD to contact the resident’s family or friends. Arrange a surprise visit. No family? Drum up a volunteer, pet visit, or something w/ local scouting troop or school. Sometimes it’s not so important who is visiting, but that the resident has visitors, period.

Finally, If you have several residents who are dealing with loneliness, try arranging a group activity. A movie night (or ongoing movie club) is a great way to bring people together and get them talking. Invite family members and volunteers, if possible, too. Get the group together and watch a classic movie with an upbeat theme like Singin’ in the Rain. Musicals are great because of the lively music and lavish dance scenes! Provide snacks, dim the lights, and let everyone enjoy a movie together. Afterward, lead a discussion about the movie. Encourage everyone to talk about their favorite songs or scenes, or reminisce about other favorite movies and actors from that time period. If the movie had dancing, bring in a volunteer to teach everyone a simple dance based on a song from the movie. Or lead a sing-a-long or karaoke with songs from famous movie musicals.

Sometimes the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact. If you see someone looking down, or who hasn’t had visitors in a while, a little attention from you can make a huge difference.

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