Combating Loneliness And Boredom In A Nursing Home
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
My mother is living in a nursing home, and I live in an apartment about one hour from her.
My job necessitates a lot of out-of-town travel, and with my unpredictable schedule, visiting my mother has become extremely difficult, although my cell phone allows me to call Mom when Iím traveling between job sites.
The activities director at the nursing home has told me that my mother uses my phone calls as an excuse to not leave her room, stay in bed, and to sleep a lot. After my calls she goes back to sleep.
Iím torn between calling her on a fairly regular basis, which she and I both enjoy, or curtailing my calls and encouraging her to participate in activities at the nursing home. I wonder if she is losing the benefit of being involved in activities out of her room by waiting for my calls? Can you please give me any suggestions?
-A reader in Arizona
In general, your motherís involvement in social activities is important for her physical and psychological well-being.
Depression or other medical problems could be a cause for her daytime sleeping and staying in bed, and should be ruled out and treated if present. Consistently staying in her bed and sleeping without medical necessity is rarely a good option for your mom.
Nursing homesí trained activity staff provide mental and physical stimulation to discourage self-isolation and withdrawal. Your motherís remaining active can prevent premature deterioration in her health.
If she is reluctant to jump right into the activities, then maybe a gradual approach to her involvement will work. Perhaps a meeting with you, your mother and the professional staff at the nursing home can address issues of her care, including how she spends her waking hours. Some sort of arrangement allowing her to schedule phone times with you and not be solely dependent on you for cognitive stimulation needs to be addressed.
If she has never enjoyed group activities, then perhaps individual activities such as reading, working on puzzles or watching some television while in her room, can help her remain active and cognitively stimulated.
Loneliness and boredom are two problems frequently encountered by nursing home residents. Families can help but should not be the sole source of a nursing home residentís activity. Verbally applauding her increased activity can help increase this behavior.
Harold H. Lecrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright ©2007