They Never Visit, and It’s Killing Me!

Q. I live an hour away from both my daughters and their families, but they never visit me. I am aware that they are busy with soccer games and other activities, but I wish they could make the time to come see me once in a while.

It’s true, I live in a senior community with a lot of activities, and I do skype with my grandchildren every week. But, it’s not the same. I need a hug sometimes and to see how big they have gotten in person. To be honest, I am feeling lonely without my daughters around. I would go see them, but I get nervous with all of the traffic in Northern Virginia. My driving skills aren’t what they used to be.

I am not great at guilt, but I feel like facts and research might help convince them to come visit. Is there some research out there that says that children should visit their parents? I read in one of your previous articles that it’s required in China, so there has to be a reason behind it. What can I and other lonely seniors out there say to get our adult children to come around more often?

Thanks for your help!

A. You are absolutely correct that your children and your grandchildren should visit you. And, it’s not just because it feels good to see loved ones in person. Taking time for our parents could extend their lives, a new study shows.

For your daughters and others out there who feel too busy to visit loved ones, there is research to prove how important it is to set aside time and spend it with senior parents/grandparents. In fact, doing so can add up to 9 more years to their lives!

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that loneliness could lead to functional decline and, in some cases, premature death in older people. The study, Loneliness in Older Persons, looked at 1,600 adults with an average age of 71. It revealed that that nearly 23% of lonely participants died within six years of the study, compared to only 14% of those that reported experiencing adequate levels of companionship, and visits from family members.

The researchers came to the conclusion that “loneliness is a significant factor in the decline of quality of life in older adults.”

This isn’t the only study that seems to suggest that loneliness plays a factor in serious health problems. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Utah, has conducted similar studies. She said:

“Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity. Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival, such as protection and food, and despite modern advancements that may [help with] certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival.”

Seniors Without Social Interaction Suffer

The findings about loneliness could explain why many seniors who don’t have a lot of social interaction pass away suddenly or seem to suffer from more health problems than other people of the same age who have more social interaction. With loneliness comes the risk of depression, cognitive impairment, and other health problems, such as coronary heart disease, which are all factors that may lead to an earlier death. For more details, please read our article, “This Can Be as Dangerous to Your Health as Fifteen Cigarettes Per Day.”

To Live Longer AND Sharpen Your Mind, Tell Them You Want to Babysit Your Grandchildren!

Your daughters likely want you to live longer, keep your mind sharp, and stave off dementia and other diseases. And most couples with children love to go out on date nights whenever they can, but babysitting can get expensive. Suggest your daughters bring their children to visit, and watch them if you can, while your daughters go out with their husbands. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Many people don’t realize that babysitting has been linked to decreased rates of depression, and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing brain function and memory. Similar to your children visiting, caring for grandchildren can help to prevent the social isolation that can cause depression, and even an earlier death.

But, don’t babysit for too long! A recent study showed that researchers from the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia observed the cognitive function of over 180 women who cared for grandchildren. The results showed that postmenopausal women who spend one day a week caring for their grandchildren may have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. However, those that spend five days a week or more caring for little ones may have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders. So, send them home after a day or two 🙂

Your Children will Benefit from Visiting You Also

It goes without saying that you’re not the only one who benefits when your daughters increase the quality time spent with you. Relationships, especially familial ones, are often symbiotic and supportive. Hope all of this research is helpful in your cause and that you get to spend lots of quality time with your loved ones soon, and that it benefits your entire family’s health and happiness.

To Those Who Don’t Visit Often Enough. . .

When you visit someone who doesn’t get regular visitors (even when he or she has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia) you may have impacted that person in a major way, especially if he or she is lonely and/or feeling isolated or depressed. The feelings you create by showing you care can change how he or she interacts with others and improve his or her mood. Remember, the benefit of your visit (or a call, if you cannot visit) will likely last, so call and visit senior loved ones whenever you can.

If you have a senior loved one who lives alone, it is always prudent to plan ahead in the event that assisted living or nursing home care is needed in the future. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. As always, please contact us when you’re ready to make an appointment for a no-cost introductory consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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