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Senior Care Tip (from a TV ad): You Don't Have to Be Lonely

It's OK to be lonely because then you know you have to do something about it.

Senior Care Tip (from a TV ad): You Don't Have to Be Lonely, written by Stanton Lawson of Sequoia Senior Solutions.

 

It's the holidays! Everyone is running everywhere, going to parties, shopping, more parties. But you aren't doing any of that. You remember when you were a part of the crush of shoppers or balancing a tiny plate on your lap as you talked to the person who sat down next to you. But you aren't doing any of that. And you are feeling lonely.

One of the most difficult things you sometimes face as you get older is this lonely feeling.  You may feel isolated from family members who don’t live nearby, you may be dealing with living alone after the loss of a spouse, or may have an illness or physical condition that keeps you from doing the things you used to do.  You are just not doing the holiday scene. Regardless of the reason for feeling lonely, a sense of loneliness can lead to unhappiness, depression, and even poor health.

 

It’s OK to feel lonely

If you’re experiencing loneliness for any reason, the most important thing is not to criticize yourself for it.  It’s OK to feel lonely because it is often a normal part of aging and experiencing life changes.  Sometimes it happens because of things beyond your control, and other times it just creeps up on you gradually over time until one day you feel incredibly weighed down by a sense of being alone. However you discover you are lonely, it is still OK to feel that way. There is nothing wrong with you.

Experts will tell you that the key to avoiding loneliness is to stay active and connected with other people.  That's easy for those experts to say, of course, but it’s not always easy for a person to do.  You may not be as mobile as you used to be and have difficulty doing your favorite activities.  Or, you may still be active, but your friends have lost their mobility and are not able to join you anymore.  For most seniors, though, loneliness becomes a real problem after they lose a spouse or partner.  Suddenly being alone can trigger all sorts of feelings, and loneliness is one of the most common.

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Say goodbye to loneliness

The first step to saying goodbye to loneliness is to make a decision to do something different.  This can actually be the hardest part, because change can be scary or uncomfortable.  It’s even harder to get yourself going if you are feeling depressed or unhappy with yourself.  Remember, taking the first step and doing something different does not mean making huge changes in your life.  Rather, it means starting out with a small step, or just a baby step sometimes, and then gradually increasing and expanding your comfort zone.

There are lots of ways to take that first step. 

·         Find a local coffee shop and have breakfast or lunch there once or twice a week.  After just a few visits you’ll probably start to recognize other people and other people will start to recognize you. 

·         Another idea is to check out your local senior center.  There you will find a wide range of activities you can do, and as you do those activities you’ll get to know other people with your same interests.

If you have physical limitations that keep you from getting out and about regularly, look for ways to make changes right there inside your home. 

·         For instance, you could pick up the telephone and call a friend or relative.  It’s surprising how hard this can be sometimes, but it doesn’t take very long to start noticing and appreciating the companionship from these conversations. 

·         Another idea is to write letters to friends and family.  It’s a great way to stay connected with others and gives you something to look forward to when they write back.


Know when to ask for help

Sometimes your feelings of loneliness may be more than you can handle on your own and this is often the case when depression has set in.  Depression is a real, physical condition that causes changes in your brain chemistry which in turn affects your feelings, emotions, and your health.  It usually happens gradually, so you might not even realize what’s occurring.  All you know is that you feel lonely, sad, tired, and you may even have physical aches and pains.

Getting help for extreme loneliness or depression is something many seniors don’t even consider.  They may think it’s a sign of weakness, or that they just need to have more willpower and self-discipline.  The problem is that trying to get better with willpower alone does not help the physical causes of your feelings.  Identifying and treating those physical causes is necessary to help you feel better.  Start with a visit to your doctor and tell him or her what you’re experiencing.  You might be put on a small dose of medication to help with the physical causes, and your doctor will probably recommend visiting with a counselor or therapist.

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You can also ask for some help from an in home caregiving agency like Sequoia Senior Solutions. One of the best skills our caregivers have is to spend time visiting with you. A regular visitor even once a week can be that baby step and might be the start of you doing some of the others things we suggested.

Remember, asking for help is often the very best thing you can do for yourself.  You might be surprised at how much better you feel after getting the help you need and we would be honored if you contacted us. Just call (707) 763-6600.

For more great information, please come visit the blog at our Sequoia Senior Solutions website. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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