How can we help my mother who is struggling with loneliness in the assisted living facility?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother was recently moved from independent to assisted living in a well known facility. She really falls into the "in-between" stage because she can be ostracized by the independent residents, yet has little in common with the assisted living residents who are like zombies to her. She thrives on intimacy and personal conversation but no staff have time to engage with her other than to shuttle her to a room to play bingo or cards which she hates and never played during her younger years. I call her twice daily to insure she takes her meds and talk meaningfully as she is able, due to some dementia. Frankly, my twice daily calls and the less frequent visits of my local brother and sister are her main interactions. Staff seem untrained to have any meaningful conversations with residents but only brief superficial contact. My mother is literally dying of loneliness despite all her family can do, unless we engage with her several hours daily. What else can be done?

Expert Answers

You didn't say whether or not you've approached facility administrators to discuss your concerns about your mother, but if you haven't, I think you should do so immediately.  They should be doing more to keep your mother engaged  than simply shuttling her to the bingo hall -- particularly if she has no interest in bingo!  I'm sure there must be a few peers for your mother at the facility, that is, seniors who are neither snobs nor zombies, and facility staff should be making more of an effort to help your mother find them. When you talk to facility administrators, make sure they understand how lonely and isolated your mother is, and how upset you and your siblings are about the situation.

If the facility administrators are unresponsive, I would  consider finding another housing situation for your mother as soon as you can. Loneliness and depression can erode the physical and mental health of elderly people -- not to mention their quality of life. Your mother sounds like a warm, social person, and it's a shame for her to spend her last years in a state of tedious isolation.

Since it sounds like you live far away from your mother, you might want to hire a geriatric care manager to  help you find a better housing situation for her. Check out our local eldercare directory to find names of geriatric care managers and other resources where your mother lives.

Keep in touch and let us know how it turns out!