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Love Heals: How to Improve the Lives of the Elderly

Tips to infuse more meaningful love into daily caregiving

The classic saying “Love heals all” may seem like a romantic notion, but there is scientific evidence that giving and experiencing love is vital to a healthy body, soul and mind. Love not only decreases anxiety, depression and stress, but also has been shown to reduce inflammation. With February being the time to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Heart Month, there’s no better time of year to think about how to bring more love into the lives of people we know who are elderly or ailing.

According to Gary Chapman’s popular book, The Five Love Languages, we can express love through time, affirmation, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.  Here are several ideas for integrating these expressions into a caregiving routine:

Create meaningful interactions

Spending time actively listening to a loved one’s life story or words of wisdom makes them feel relevant. The process is likely to be mutually beneficial, as most elderly people have valuable experiences and knowledge to share.

Likewise, listening to a loved one’s needs and concerns and then responding with valuable solutions is a welcome relief to someone who feels incapable of affecting change in their life without assistance from others. For example, if an elderly person feels lonely and lacks personal interaction on a daily basis, consider taking the time to teach them how to use Facebook or Skype so they can connect and interact with distant family, grandkids and old friends.

Be playful

The gift of spontaneity can add some excitement to an elderly or ailing person’s daily routine.  It doesn’t need to be dramatic, but could be as simple as bringing over some beautiful flowers and arranging them in vases around the house, or placing a new family photo under a loved one’s pillow.  Sometimes even a drive in the car, a heartfelt note, a fun card game or a special dinner guest can turn a monotonous day into something happy and memorable.  A cooked meal, a batch of cookies or a little help around the house also goes a long way to show you care.

Connect with physical touch

Warm hugs or handholding while catching up on the day may seem so simple, but can mean so much to someone who rarely leaves home or lacks friends.  Consider bringing a family pet or your child with you, since they often and freely shower people with unconditional warmth and affection.

Promote self esteem

Love those you care for unconditionally by complimenting their strengths and overlooking their weaknesses.  Show loved ones that they matter by helping them find purpose in life in subtle and significant ways.  For example, regularly ask them for advice or assistance with simple tasks such as creating a memory book, knitting a blanket for a friend’s new baby, researching a family tree or keeping you company while you cook a complicated meal.

If you take the time to uncover their passions, you may be able to find meaningful ways to connect them to others who have similar interests through clubs, volunteerism, social groups or spiritual outlets.

Small acts of love and kindness can go a long way in enhancing the quality of life for the elderly and ailing. There’s no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Heart Month than finding year-long ways for bringing love to those who need it most.