If you have a loved one with complex care needs, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to their contact with the outside world.
Adult home care clients are able to retain a certain level of independence, which is wonderful. But all too often, the alone time that comes with this independence can lead to loneliness and even social isolation. Those with complex conditions may be more susceptible to these feelings and patterns.
For family members, thinking about the potential loneliness of a loved one can lead to feelings of guilt. This is especially true for those who can’t be there for their family members all the time.
Is your grandmother staring at the ceiling right now? Is she watching infomercials out of mind-numbing boredom? Are there enough people checking up on her to make sure she’s comfortable and happy?
Questions like these can be a constant source of anxiety, whether you’re across the country or working in an office down the street. But there are things you can do to help, no matter where you are. This post will look at a few.
(Note: because children are surrounded by parents and caregivers 24/7, this post will focus on adults and seniors with complex care needs).
Complex Care, Loneliness & Depression
What kind of psychological and emotional toll can dealing with complex care needs take?
Consider this: a 2012 King’s Fund study found that depression is 7 times higher in people who have two or more long-term conditions or chronic health complaints.
Of course, it’s entirely possible to lead a joyful life while dealing with a complicated heath condition. One of the best ways for a person to fight depression is to broaden or strengthen their social circles.
You can position your loved one to live more happily with complex care needs by ensuring you spend quality time with them. Playing a role in helping them connect with others is also important.
Unfortunately, for many with serious health conditions, forging new friendships can be hard. Mobility issues can make leaving home a challenge. Strict treatment or medication regiments can limit activity. When certain health conditions are present, controlling behaviours in public can be difficult – or outright impossible. And of course, social prejudice is widespread.
Those with complex care needs may face even greater barriers than those with less complicated conditions. Undergoing several types of treatments can make participating in social activities especially difficult.
If you’re loved one doesn’t have a solid circle of friends nearby – or a realistic chance of building one – you should be especially alert for signs of depression.
Take steps to ensure your family member maintains regular and meaningful contact with you, other family members, and caregivers.
Difficulties with Family Relationships
You’re there for your loved one. You want what’s best for them, which includes maintaining a connection with you. But your commitment to quality time may not guarantee a close relationship.
Relationships between people with complex care needs and their family members may suffer for any one of the following reasons.
- Geographical distance: When family members are far away, a person with complex care needs may have few opportunities to connect with the ones they love.
- Outside commitments: Chances are, you have work and life commitments that prevent you from spending the time you feel you should with your loved one.
- Emotional stress on family members: According to a recent survey, 92% of people with family members who have chronic health issues are impacted by emotions such as worry, frustration, anger, and guilt.
- Guilt on the part of the person receiving care: Many studies indicate that people who feel like they’re burdening those around them can suffer serious emotional consequences.
- Low-quality communication methods: If your loved one is verbal, it’s easy to make the phone your go-to form of communication. But if you’re not connecting face-to-face, it’s hard to know how your family member is really doing.
These barriers, among others, limit relationships that can improve the quality of life you people with complex conditions. They put a strain on relationships between loved ones.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this from happening. With a bit of planning, you can help your family member avoid loneliness – without the ordeal this usually entails.
What are some of the best ways to support your loved one with complex care needs?
To start with, consider encouraging behaviours that can ward off social isolation and its effects.
Hobbies can alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. If your loved one spends significant time alone, it’s important for them to find meaningful daily activities. You can help by looking into appropriate therapeutic recreation options.
We’ve all experienced the relief of communicating with people who share our struggles.
The internet makes it easy for people with shared experiences to connect, no matter where they are in the world.
Can your family member operate an electronic device? If so, connecting them to the right online forums or social networks can be hugely beneficial.
Of course, some people with complex care needs will have difficulty going online. And even for those able to do so, nothing can replace close communication with family members who care.
Being there for your loved one means finding a way to connect, even if you have many commitments or live far away. Phone calls are great. But what about people who are nonverbal, or those who have disabilities that make operating a phone difficult?
Even if your family member can participate in phone calls, face-to-face communication is important. Your loved one should experience the lift in mood that comes with seeing your smiling face.
Luckily, communication technology is developing to meet the needs of those with complex conditions. Do you believe it would be difficult or impossible for your family member to start a video chat with you? You might want to reconsider.
What if reaching you was as easy as tapping a picture of your face on a tablet screen? It’s possible. Recently, there have been some major breakthroughs in videoconferencing apps.
The right apps can also connect people with complex care needs to health care professionals. They can be used to facilitate check-in sessions with caregivers. They can send track automatic medication reminders.
In short, technology can improve the home care your family member receives, which can strengthen their relationship with you. When you’re not stressing out about your loved one’s care, you can concentrate on what really matters. Enjoying their company.
Many people with complex care needs struggle with sadness. Engaging activities and contact with the outside world can stave off the loneliness that fuels depression.
Family members play a critical role. But when illness and physical or cognitive limitations are involved, the path to joyful relationships is rarely smooth. However you chose to communicate with your loved one, make sure they feel loved and appreciated.
And whatever you do, take time to deal with your own emotions. Caring for yourself will make you a more effective part of your family support network.