Considering an Assisted Living Place for Your Mom, Dad or Spouse? Part II
Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger used data from the longest study of human happiness to answer the question, “What makes us happy and healthy as we go through life?”
The study began in 1938 and continued for 80 years. What Waldinger found was simple: relationships are the key to happier, healthier lives, though not just any relationships. Quality matters more than quantity, and the happiest among us have one or a handful of close relationships and stable, satisfying marriages.
Gerontologist Louise Aronson in her book Elderhood states, “In old age, as at any age, once basic survival needs…are met, people’s well-being comes down to two things that are commonly overlooked by almost everyone, including those who operate senior living facilities, families and our health care system: engagement (i.e., quality relationships) and meaning (i.e., purpose). Often, though not always, the two are related, and a well-appointed facility doesn’t guarantee either.”
People can be socially isolated and lonely even when they are not alone, and in older adults, loneliness leads not just to unhappiness but also to functional decline and death. The health impact of social isolation is equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. All else being medically equal, loneliness increases mortality by 26 percent.
It is hard to replace the caring family environment but when it becomes necessary to consider placing a loved one in an assisted living home look carefully.
Terry Pfau DO, HMD