Clark was 68 when he went to what he called ‘a dark place’ after reality set in that he would need help the rest of his life. He’d recently been hospitalized for a severe leg infection and that’s when the isolation started. He withdrew from the things that gave him purpose, including driving to his warehouse where he bought and sold antiques from the same building his dad had used. When he was there, friends often joined him and the stories and connections ensued. His days had meaning until he sold his car and stopped going.
For others like Mary, their purpose comes from being surrounded by what brings them comfort like remaining independent at home. They enjoy sitting in their favorite chair knitting and making dinner, awaiting visits from their neighborhood friends and family – this brings them joy. But Mary had a health crisis and she lost some of her independence.
These are real Homespire client stories whose outcomes may surprise you – both Clark and Mary were able to get back to doing exactly what they love and their health is improving because of it. But their stories are familiar to many when it comes to the imagery we see typically about aging. So many seniors give up on their purpose and passion accepting what they think is ‘normal aging’ and that’s when health issues may worsen, creating what we call the roller coaster ride.
You probably have an idea of some of the most common signs that your older loved ones may need help, such as a recent hospitalization or fall. But what about before a health crisis happens, should you really be concerned if they give up knitting or stop going out for lunch with friends? What signs should you look for?
All too often in the medically-driven, reactive healthcare world we overlook the simplicity of supporting elder’s health goals by addressing their life goals and the connection can be powerful in changing outcomes. Clark’s and Mary’s outcomes may surprise you because they aren’t the norm – traditional home care options don’t go far enough to address social isolation and incorporate purpose and passion into the mix, but they need to. Keeping seniors living ‘their best life’ isn’t about ‘care,’ it’s about independence. To achieve independence, we have to look for support that focuses on the whole person. And here’s why.
Purpose is a powerful health indicator and studies show that having a sense of purpose in your life actually decreases the risk of death by 23% – ‘developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your health and potentially save your life, especially from cardiac events.’
Second to not having purpose is the growing epidemic of social isolation among seniors, as Clark shares in his story. Social isolation effects are similar to smoking 15 cigarettes per day and a key issue we should be looking at as critically as heart conditions, diabetes, even cancer.
At Homespire, we recommend reframing the question. Instead of just asking about warning signs, ask: ‘is your loved one living their best life’?
Think about your aging parents, are they? Are they visiting with friends, able to get to their hair appointments, or out golfing or playing cards? Are they laughing and connecting with grandchildren? Or are they sad, withdrawn, or don’t want to be a bother? Or do they wish they could…..fill in the blank.
By listening and supporting their life goals, you can actually change their health outcomes by helping them find their purpose, remove barriers that contribute to social isolation, and help them live their best life.
We encourage you to stop and think about this question for a moment then reach out to Homespire for support making it happen or even just to learn more about how focusing on your loved one’s best life can actually help protect their wellbeing.