When someone needs a caregiver because of illness, injury or changing physical or cognitive abilities, a home care agency can help. The exact reason for the care varies from person to person but what they often need is companion care too.
Loneliness and Caregiving
As people age or life changes after a diagnosis or surgery, their ability to connect with others also changes. This might mean that they are in grief over the loss of a loved one, or they are physically not able to go to work or to the same social gatherings they once did due to medical issues. However, the desire and need to have human connection does not go away, even when someone is living with dementia and their ability to remember names and faces can be a symptom of the illness.
Loneliness and social isolation for older adults has been identified as a “public health risk.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that these conditions can even lead to higher risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.
In addition, a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that more than one-third of adults over age 45 “feel lonely” and that almost one-fourth of adults age 65 and older are socially isolated.
Yet, loneliness is not just about feelings; experts have been able to link serious health risks with prolonged isolation and loneliness. According to the CDC, there is increased risk for the following:
- A 50% increased risk of dementia
- Poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke
- Among heart failure patients, those who were also lonely showed a 68% increased risk of hospitalization and a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
In addition, some groups were found to be more at risk for feelings of loneliness, including immigrants, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups. The reasons may be geographical, such as leaving family behind in another country, or related to societal stigma or discrimination, but the feelings of loneliness and their detrimental impact can be the same.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, researchers have found that the epidemic of loneliness has only gotten worse as people created new social behaviors to avoid illness. The “Making Caring Common Project” out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education developed a report to capture the changes.
They found that 36% of American adults surveyed feel lonely “almost all the time” and 43% of young adults reported increases in loneliness since the outbreak of the pandemic and that no one was asking how they were doing or in a way that made them feel like the person “genuinely cared.”
The Campaign to End Loneliness in England found that “the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/26” and two-fifths of all “older people say that the television is their main company.”
The Eden Alternative, a non-profit dedicated to the well-being of elders, described loneliness as one of the three plagues of the human spirit (helplessness and boredom are the other two) affecting older adults. Instead, they champion the whole person, one that needs to feel connected and have a sense of purpose throughout all stages and ages of life. Among their seven domains of well-being are identity and connectedness, which means people need to feel that they belong and are engaged with others.
Companion Caregiving FAQ
Home care has a role in the fight against loneliness, particularly for elders. An in-home caregiver from a reputable home care services agency can do more than just provide transportation to the grocery store, doctor appointments, and social opportunities; they can also become a trusted confidant, someone to share a laugh with or engage in a favorite activity with such as watching a movie, solving a puzzle, and more.
Companion care can include:
- Conversation about a variety of topics to provide intellectual stimulation and feelings of helpfulness, joy, and alleviating boredom
- Identifying potential fall hazards in the home and suggestions on how reduce the risk
- Transportation to and from medical appointments, errands like going to the grocery store, or to see family and friends
- Healthy meal planning and preparation together
- Light housekeeping, which can be done together as well, creating a sense of purpose and meaning
While someone may be signing up to get after-surgery care, dementia care, chronic conditions care, or some other specific type of care for which a caregiver has been trained, they can also benefit from companion care.
Matching Clients and Caregivers for Connections and Companionship
When there is a need for a caregiver, the agency looks to create an ideal match between the caregiver and the person who needs care. Matching two people involves knowing a little about each of them so that common interests, similar backgrounds, and preferred activities can help them build their relationship. For example, a military veteran in his 80s who needs home care services might be matched with a military veteran in her 30s who is a compassionate caregiver.
A perfect client and caregiver match can be a surprise and lead to new interests for both people as they each learn from one another. Just because the caregiver didn’t know how to knit or fish doesn’t mean they can’t learn now, and just because the client struggles to remember a name doesn’t mean she can’t still share knowledge about playing the piano or cooking a stew.
How to Become a Companion Caregiver
If you think you have the compassion to deliver meaningful care to others who need companion care, consider applying to become a caregiver. Homewatch CareGivers provides free training to employees to gain or refresh their skillset.
A professional trained in-home caregiver can make a difference in the life of an elder in many ways—reducing the chance of a fall in the home, providing transportation to and from medical appointments, assisting with bathing and grooming to prepare for home health care appointments such as physical therapy, and more—but they can also put smiles on faces and help people to re-engage with life through companion care.