Loneliness and social isolation are major problems in the US, especially for older adults. Approximately one-fourth of seniors experience social isolation, which means that they do not have regular social interactions with others. The numbers for loneliness are harder to pinpoint, but even those who do have social exposure can experience loneliness. As people age, social circles naturally decrease as friends and relatives their same age die and children move away. Not only can this lead to depression in older adults, but it can also have other health impacts.
Social isolation can double the risk of dementia, and loneliness can substantially increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. There are ways to counteract these issues of social isolation and loneliness, even if families are far away from their senior loved ones. Sometimes families need to access resources to make sure that their loved ones have the emotional and social support they need, in addition to maintaining their physiological wellbeing. Companion care can help families fill this void by providing social interaction and intellectual stimulation for their loved ones.
What is Companion Care?
Companion care involves a professional giving emotional and social support to an older adult. Unlike home health care or caregiving, companions do not assist with daily living tasks, personal care, or medical care. Companions spend time playing board games, engaging in conversation, reminders for appointments, eating meals together, and engaging in other social and mental health activities. Professionals can deliver companion care at home or in a senior facility.
What are the benefits of companion care? Why Companion Care is Important?
Companion care provides a range of benefits for seniors, especially if their families live at a distance. These are some of the most important benefits of companion care.
- Facilitation of engagement outside of the home: Companions can accompany seniors to outings away from their home and even take them, depending on the service. This can include going to the movies, church, or other outings and community events to facilitate interaction outside the home.
- Increased activity: While a decline in physical activity is normal for people as they age, it can have a negative impact on an older adult’s health outlook.A companion can encourage physical activity by taking a senior on a walk or even joining them for water aerobics.
- Disease monitoring: While companions do not provide medical assistance, they are in a position to note changes in mood, memory, or other issues. This can be important for detecting early signs of disease progression, especially for neurological disorders.
- Respite for families or caregivers: Caregiving is a demanding role, whether the caregiver is a family member or a professional. Companion care can provide relief for caregivers with a few hours of social care.
- Keep up with social contacts: Companions can help seniors keep up with their social contacts by helping them with correspondence or even scheduling a video call with family members far away. They can get them started on social media or help them set up an email account.
- Improved mental health: A lack of social interaction is an indicator of depression. Companion care offers a break in that social interaction that can help provide the socialization that older adults need to better their mental health and avoid or improve depression.
FAQ: What is the difference between companion care vs personal care?
While personal care and companion care may seem alike, the activities and the type of professional are very different. Personal care involves assistance with going to the bathroom, taking a shower, laundry, mobility assistance, and help with grooming. Companion care does not require assistance with these kinds of tasks. While clients do not need to be fully independent to receive services, companions do not engage in home health in any way.
What are companion care services?
Hiring someone to provide companion care is helpful for any family, but especially if the family lives far away. There are plenty of companion care services available depending on the needs of the senior.
- Activity services: Companions can provide transportation to activities, schedule things to do, and act as a companion on outings. They can assist in the general planning of activities depending on the mobility of the senior, such as trips to the museum or botanical gardens.
- Reading services: Companions can help seniors who love to read but may not have the eyesight or motivation for it anymore. They can read books or the newspaper with their clients. Even more, companions can serve as friends for book discussions to provide intellectual stimulation.
- Elderly care facility services: While many companions conduct in-home services, they can also give companion care at elderly care facilities. Even seniors that require professional and consistent medical care need social interaction. It can be difficult for seniors in facilities to get one-on-one attention. Companion care, in this instance, can also give families peace of mind.
- Light housekeeping service: Some companions offer some light home care assistance, such as doing the laundry or running errands. While companions do not conduct personal care, they can conduct light housework. This could especially be beneficial when completed with the client.
- Reminder services: Companion care does not include assistance with dispensing medication, but companions do provide reminders for their clients to take their medications. Especially as memory loss occurs, these reminders can help keep seniors healthy.
- Fall prevention services: Falls are a major concern for the elderly, and injuries from falls can make seniors even more socially isolated if they lose mobility that enables them to leave the house. Companions can offer fall prevention services by noting potential fall hazards in the home to develop a plan to make alterations.
- Companionship: By definition, older adults suffering from social isolation and loneliness lack appropriate social stimulation. Companions can easily offer this by having conversations with them. Companion care allows someone to share their life’s stories and engage in thoughtful conversation.
- Errand services: Some seniors have difficulty with the organizational or mobility skills required to run simple errands. Companion care can help older adults by running errands for seniors or even with them. They can buy groceries, pick up a selection from the bookstore, or even drop off the dry cleaning.
- Pets assistance services: Having a pet can decrease feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to care for a pet as people age. Dogs need to go on walks, cats need playtime at home, and all pets need appropriate nutrition and clean dwellings. Companions can help seniors maintain their pets by going on walks with the client and their pet, playing with their pet, and providing other pet caretaking services or reminders.
- Technology assistance services: Variance exists among older adults and their ability to use technology, but many seniors need support in accessing technology for either social or physiological reasons. Some seniors do not have a background in using technology, and some seniors have issues using devices due to their eyesight or issues constricting hand mobility. Of course, some seniors are very tech-savvy. Those who need extra help can use companion care to help them stay in touch with others over social media, email, or help in accessing online medical appointments or results.
- Hobby sharing services: Participation in leisure activities or interesting hobbies can help older adults decrease feelings of loneliness, especially when conducted with others. Seniors can lose the motivation to participate in leisure activities over time. To provide the social motivation to maintain involvement, companions can participate in a range of healthy leisure activities, plan them out, and pick up the resources they need. Examples include working in the garden, playing board games, knitting, golfing, tennis, swimming, puzzle work, and more.
- Healthy eating services: Proper nutrition is vital for older adults, especially for seniors with comorbidities. Moreover, nutritional needs change as people get older. Companions can sit down with seniors and help them plan healthy meals for the week that meet their dietary requirements. They can help them make grocery shopping lists, assist them in selecting groceries, and some companions can help in meal prep, including batch meal prep for the week.