How important is an aging loved one's social & emotional well-being?

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When you're so busy addressing their medical & physical needs and ADL's?

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My mom has no social life to speak of in AL although there are ample opportunities.

But--and here is the significant part--she had no social life before. We visited her and she played bridge. Without bridge, she would have seen no one but us. And she routinely broke off relationships with people--all her life long. She expected people to come to her and she went to no one to suggest get-togethers.

So, do I feel that I have to fix or improve this??? Not one bit. I visit every day. My mom is now struggling to have a conversation because her memory is so bad. But, God love her, she tries to be peasant and cooperative--thanks to her new meds.

It is what it is.
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Recently I got mom all set up in a cute quiet apartment while she waits for her senior apartment to become available..her current apartment is not a senior apartment..so there's no real interaction with other folks..and I feel bad about that..so I bring her to our home to visit...HOWEVER I never know which mom I'm going to get..the pleasant one...or the negative complaining argumentative one who appreciates nothing...so while I feel bad she is lonely..I can't be responsible for her attitude that wants to be doomy! In fact her meanness is the last straw..the demanding..is affecting the tranquilty of my home. I encourage her to contact her friends..so she has started to do this...but they don't seem to come visit. I take her to a seniors group once a week...where she complains how mean I am to her...and she is believed. My sanity hangs by a thread. So I avoid her other than making sure her physical needs are met. Emotional health is important but she refuses counseling. In fact I need counseling to help me with guilt!
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We have many needs, and they fall into a hierarchy. We need oxygen and water and food. But if you are suffocating you really aren't focused on the fact that you are hungry! The first and only priority is getting out of the situation that is preventing you from getting air.

Survival comes first.

We have social and emotional needs, too. I think they may be more important than we sometimes acknowledge. If someone needs help with ADLs, that comes ahead of emotional needs. Someone who can't feed himself or toilet herself needs that taken care of first. It is hard to be emotionally happy while suffering malnutrition or sitting in soiled pants.

I think it is very difficult as the primary (and often only) caregiver for a loved one with severe medical and physical needs to have enough energy to get beyond meeting the essential survival needs. I think it is a very good thing to arrange for the loved one to interact with other people, such as at an adult day health program, church, senior centers, or appropriate social groups.
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As important as your aging loved one wants them to be.

My mother froze out all her friends with pretenses of being "too busy." Turns out it was brain changes from early dementia and a Parkinsonian syndrome. Her reclusiveness bothered others (myself included) more than it bothered her. The stimulation of conversation and questions made her agitated and befuddled. She preferred to be alone.

I also know several other elderly folks who are in their right minds, and have no social life outside of placing demands/expectations on their adult children and grandchildren. I haven't known these folks long enough to know if they never had friends.....or this is the old-age shut-down.

I find this syndrome disturbing. But it sure is prevalent. Maybe I'll understand when I'm that age. Altho I hope not.
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Emotional wellbeing is important, but you I've had to learn the hard way I can't force my mother to do social activities and I can't get inside her head and change her mindset. I tried for years to get my mother to go to the senior center, do hobbies at home and stop feeling sorry for herself. The final straw came when she moved into assisted living and there were so many activities right there for her to do, but all she wants to do is lay on the bed, watch TV and sleep. I can't make her do anything, all I can do is have so level of control over the medical care she receives and her living conditions. Elderly folks are stubborn and the guilt caregivers have to endure because of it isn't fair.
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I'm guessing everyone's situation is different, but in caring for my parents (both with dementia), I often feel that the social and emotional aspects of their care are short-shrifted. Just getting through the day meeting their other needs is often all I can manage; yes, I want to be that bright and lively Mary Poppins type of caregiver who puts a song on and gets them up to dance, who whips out a pack of cards and jovially leads them into a card game... but the reality is that they resist, resist, resist all these efforts, which leaves me discouraged and drained. The reality is that it takes them forever to do anything, so unless we have a few hours of quiet time, introducing and implementing a social activity is not always feasible. Then there are times when, during a lull, all I want to do is go for a walk and do something for myself... it's really conflicted, all of it. Your question was "how important" it is, presumably in the mix. I think it's super important, but that most caregivers need to simplify the expectations they put upon themselves, and fine-tune the social activities to the patient. For my mother, arranging a phone call to one of her friends might do the trick. My father enjoys a particular TV show everyday; if I sit and watch it with him, he loves discussing what's going on with me... both very undemanding tasks, yet highly interactive and social for them. In any case, I totally relate to the guilt and exhaustion that comes with trying to be all things to the people we are loving and caring for. We do the best we can, and most days that has to be enough.
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CG, a little more detail might help. Your profile says you are only dealing with age related decline, but if you are having to deal with medical problems and provide assistance for ADLs then I think there is a lot more going on.
When you are in the middle of a medical crisis all thoughts turn to surviving the next days and weeks. As the days pass thoughts naturally turn to living with the new reality, not just surviving but really living with the best quality of life possible. There are options available depending on your circumstances that can nurture their social and spiritual needs... sorry duty calls, I will leave details for others :)
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I like the idea of pretending mom is speaking a foreign language when she's been negative...a sense of humor helps a lot! When she's nasty I stay away for a few days..and keep visits short. A local diner for fish dinner etc. She's had two personalities all my life..now it's just worse...hard
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Emotional wellbeing is critical we all need something to look forward to, but it differs.
Dad was high energy, always had something he wanted to do.....it typically involved me taking him.
Mom is more sedentary, and seems bothered by the thought of "having" to go somewhere. She is made happy by being visited, getting a pastry or treat and word search.
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I agree with all of the above comments. My Mom was almost a recluse during her last years. Its funny how hindsight is twenty, twenty. We were always coaxing Mom to interact with the other residents at the nursing home. It didn't dawn on me until after she was gone that she liked being alone long before that. I think if we were honest with ourselves it would of made us feel better if she socialized more, not her.
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