Aging people need relationships and purpose – things care institutions don’t offer. 4

from book

In a popular TED talk, Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger asks a profound question: “What makes us happy and healthy as we go through life?” According to the more than 80 years of data collected by the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the answer is as simple as the question is profound – relationships. By “relationships,” we don’t mean a bunch of Facebook friends. Quantity isn’t important. What matters is quality. Anywhere between one and a few close, reliable relationships will suffice. Having a loving, stable partner doesn’t hurt, either. Second to relationships is a sense of purpose or a reason to get up in the morning. Unfortunately, the American health-care system doesn’t take these needs into account. Nor do the people running nursing homes. Many older people living in nursing homes feel isolated, despite being surrounded by others. According to an article published in the academic journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, loneliness has been shown to increase mortality by 26 percent.  Hospital-based physicians often don’t handle the transfer of patients to nursing homes in a way that benefits the patient. In 2017, the Journal of American Geriatrics Society published an article that explored this very issue. Doctors are often pressured to discharge patients from hospitals, and there’s no system for matching patients with suitable nursing homes. The consequences of these gaps can be devastating. Just take the example of Neeta, an elderly woman who’d fractured her hip and was admitted to the hospital for surgery. The surgery went fine, and she was discharged to a nursing home that her son had chosen because it was close to where he lived. Nobody warned him about the facility, which gave his mother unnecessary drugs, failed to feed her sufficiently and didn’t begin her physical therapy on time. This neglect resulted in malnutrition and a massive pressure sore. Hospice became her only option. Of course, there are happy endings in nursing homes, too. But the vast majority of elderly people would prefer to be at home. And those who can afford the luxury of in-home care do tend to be happier and healthier.