By Beth Greenway, RN
Gayco Healthcare Nurse Consultant
Human beings have three basic psychological needs: a need for autonomy, competence and relatedness. The meaning of relatedness is: that state or fact of being related or connected. The connectedness with others and human psychology are intrinsically woven. So in this day and age of the Covid pandemic, where families aren’t allowed visitation with loved ones in nursing homes, how does connectedness occur?
I have a personal reason for writing this particular blog. Several years back, I moved my cousin to Georgia from South Carolina in order to look after and care for him. He has progressive supra-nuclear palsy and could no longer live safely on his own, he needed 24 hour skilled nursing care. I have not been able to visit him since the third week of February. What effect is this lack of social contact with his family having on him? Older adults are already at risk for isolation and loneliness. Remove them from contact with the family that loves them and you end up with devastating effects on the very people these safety measures are meant to protect.
A co-worker shared the following story with me, written by a caregiver in LTC.
“She’s 98. And isolation and loneliness come over her in a river of tears at my visit. Not able to see her son or daughter for 6 weeks. She wants to die. Because at 98 the waiting is too much. I offered to Face Time her son. She cried more. She wanted a hug. I in my PPE said enough. I bent over into her arms that she wrapped so tight around me. I broke the rule. I hugged her till she could breathe. We both were healed. I’d do it again. Love matters most. The elderly in long term care haven’t been touched or hugged. It leads to failure to thrive. Hugs are a necessary part of living.” Depression leads to withdrawal, not eating and anxiety. They may now live in the fear of dying alone.
I feel certain that there are many family members that share my thought about being able to visit my loved one. I would much rather be with him now, while we still have time to enjoy each other, hug each other and just love one another than to live with the regret caused by forced isolation after he is no longer with me. Nothing will ever replace the feeling of connectedness you have when sharing a long held hug.