Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--The Plague of Loneliness

Loneliness, helplessness and boredom. If you've spent any time around those who espouse the Eden Alternative, the words roll off your tongue. The first principle states:

"The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our elders." 1

Loneliness doesn't need definition. We've all felt it. It's not necessarily about being alone, because I can be by myself and be content. Or, searing loneliness can rip me apart. I can be with a group of people and feel desolate and isolated. Or, I can experience acceptance and joy.

I have two friends who are important to me. We go out to dinner together, go to movies, and on one occasion, we helped one of the group clean her garage. We listen to each other and support each other. We laugh and cry and check up on each other. When I am hurting, I know these friends are just a call away.

What if they weren't?

What if, tomorrow, both my friends passed away?

I would experience the most profound loneliness, as if the supports had been knocked out from under me. I would flounder.

Many of our elders experience this on a regular basis. Their friends, those who they depended on and had fun with, are gone. Family cares for them and visits, but they have their own lives. Days stretch endlessly, and they begin to wonder why they are still here.

Remember when we discussed connectedness?
It's meaningful connections that dissipate loneliness.

Esther came from hospital to our neighbourhood. Cataracts clouded her vision, and she was almost totally deaf. This new world was frightening and lonely. At lunch, rather than take her to our dining room, I arranged for her to eat in the neighbourhood next door, where her friend of 60 years lived. She sat at the table, and a few minutes later her friend rounded the corner. When they recognized each other, their faces glowed. "I can't see much, but I can see you!" Esther's loneliness evaporated, and now she connects with her friend three times a day at meals.

Gina and Jane live across the hall from each other, and sit at the same table in the dining room. Although they've only known each other since they lived in the care section, they've become fast friends and look out for each other. Gina goes to Jane's door and picks her up for those events she might be to anxious to attend. Jane reads the newsletter to Gina, who can no longer make out the words. Their connection has made their lives rich and full.

Loneliness is a plague that comes from institutional living. The more we create "home," the more we are able to make loneliness evaporate.

Care Partner Wednesday--The Plague of Loneliness


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