As a Companion Care provider we work diligently to reveal the hidden value of Companion Care. Often doctors, family members, and even older adults who need our service don’t understand how valuable it is. Adult children do their best after work to take care of a load of laundry for Mom or deliver some groceries. Medical staff and doctors haven’t been taught how this non-medical car enhances their patients’ well being. Older adults often see it as admitting failure, and deny they need help. Yet, Companion Care is far more than grocery shopping, laundry, meal preparation, light housekeeping, etc. It is the catalyst to more social interaction, and it allows older adults independence without isolation.
One of most powerful aspects of Companion Care is that is staves off loneliness and it fosters friendships.
We don’t spend too much time thinking of loneliness as a medical condition that requires treatment, but loneliness is a warning system. For years, scientists thought loneliness was a feeling with no redeeming value, but today they are changing their opinions about this.
During the last three decades, University of Chicago neuroscience researcher John Cacioppo has found that the feeling of isolation and rejection, called loneliness, is a sort of evolutionary warning sign. People feel loneliness when their relationships must be repaired or replaced.
In studies of people ages 50 to 68, Cacioppo has found that loneliness increases self-centeredness. He speculates that this is because humans depend on others for mutual aid and protection. When other people are not around, then people focus intensely on themselves. It is a way of surviving in the absence of community and is probably an evolutionary adaptation.
- Lonely people tend to become more defensive and less pleasant to be around, which reinforces loneliness, he says.
- Just as physical pain alerts us to damage to the body, loneliness alerts us to damaged social relationships.
- The toll of loneliness can also be physical, Cacioppo has found, and can increase the chances of premature death by 14 percent.
- In fact, loneliness has been shown to have twice the impact on early death that obesity does.
- Research at Rush University has shown that older adults are more likely to develop dementia if they feel chronic loneliness.
With this in mind, Cacioppo cautions retirees to think twice before moving to Florida for the warm climate, if it means they will find themselves around strangers and disconnected from people they know.
Cacioppo’s research found three core dimensions to feeling connected and not lonely:
1. Face-to-face contacts that are rewarding.
2. Feeling that you are part of a group.
3. Knowing someone who affirms who you are.
Companion Care provides older adults with all three of Cacioppo’s core dimensions.
Filling thee of Cacioppo’s core dimensions is the hidden value of Companion Care. It is far more than taking care of daily tasks for an older adult. A Companion Caregiver’s main goal is to interact with the older adult in their care. To converse with them and partake in activities the older adult finds enjoyable. The Companion Caregiver’s job is also to always affirm the value of the older adult. Most older adults, although some may be resistance at first, describe their Companion Care provider as a friend (see our testimonials).
Another hidden value of Companion Care is mobility.
With mobility comes freedom, independence, and the ability to maintain friendships. According to the American Public Health Association study everyone needs social networks, and having them can reduce the incidence of dementia. Companion Caregivers provide this by being available to drive the older adult to events and gatherings so they can continue friendships with others. Having a Companion Caregiver can assure that attendance at a weekly bingo gathering or rotary club meeting isn’t missed. Relationships the older adult has developed with their hairdresser, manicurist, or church group can easily be maintained without the older adult feeling like they are a burden on a family member or friend.
“Mom has lived alone for over 10 years and we didn’t think she would accept any help, now we can’t reach her by phone half the time because she and (Caregiver’s name) are out taking craft classes or working in the garden”.
-Tom, son of client
Too often older adults find their world narrowing. A Companion Caregiver serves an important purpose of keeping the older adult engaged in both life and friendships, which are vital to overall health and well being. The hidden value of Companion Care is that it broadens an older adult’s world and staves off loneliness, even if the older adult is housebound. The Companion Caregiver is someone who is there for one purpose. A Companion Caregiver’s goal is to enhance the older adult’s life by keeping them connected, listening, and engaged in conversations and activities that are important to that person, as well as daily tasks that an older adult may find difficult to complete.