Me: Congratulations! Your lab results have improved!
Elderly male Patient: Thanks, I have made a point to eat at home more often. Cooking was never my forte though.
Me: Tell me about your living situation. Do you live alone?
Patient: (with smirk on his face) Yes, are you offering to let me live with you? I would take you dancing every friday night.
Me: (laughing) I am sure my husband would have an issue with that.
Patient: Let me take you dancing anyway. He does not have to know.
The Elderly and loneliness
I try to discover the living situation and social interactions of patients. Socialization is always important in every part of the human life span. In general, we seem to focus on children developing friendships. However, older people need friends too!
I have had elderly patients express that they are lonely, some have signs of depression. This is not uncommon. A study published in 2012 by Arch Intern Med found that among participants who were older than 60 years, loneliness was a predictor of functional decline and death. Link to article is here
Social interactions help. Joining a club, volunteering or visiting day center for adults can all combat loneliness. Some are using the internet (watchout for scams everybody) as a means to an end. A sweet woman that is 88 years old told me that she was not getting any matches on the online dating account that her granddaughter had set up for her. I told her to say she was 75 (what’s the harm? Hmmm, wait… was I helping her catfish people?).
Loneliness in elderly has been linked to more rapid functional decline. Having companionship in late adulthood could be a matter of life or death.
Perissinotto CM, Stijacic Cenzer I, Covinsky KE. Loneliness in Older PersonsA Predictor of Functional Decline and Death. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(14):1078-1084. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993