Make Someone Happy, Like Every Day is Valentine’s Day

Remember the joy you felt when you received a valentine from someone—or maybe everyone—in your third-grade class? Even giving out valentines was fun, as everyone was connected and taking part in the same group activity.

Well, you can recapture that wonderful feeling by turning the spirit of Valentine’s Day into acts of kindness, comfort, and companionship for others…today and every day. And we really need that right now.

That’s because—in addition to COVID—we’re facing an epidemic of loneliness and social isolation, made worse by restrictions imposed by the disease. Seniors are most at risk, with  loneliness linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety; social isolation is also associated with a greater risk of dementia and death.

In contrast, social connection has a profound and positive impact on health, strengthening the immune system, promoting faster recovery from illness, and often, a longer life. We also just feel happier and less stressed when regular contact with others is part of our life.

So why limit yourself to just Valentine’s Day to connect with those you cherish? Turn all of February into a “Month of Love” by following Capital Caring Health’s Top 5 Tips to overcome social isolation and loneliness, for yourself and others.

  • Make Someone Happy

Too late for a card? You can still celebrate the spirit of Valentine’s Day by reaching out to let someone know you are thinking of them. Try sending an e-card or, better yet, give them a call or schedule a video visit. Then, stay in touch with regular calls, emails or texts. Your action will actually make both of you feel better. In fact, there’s a good chance some of the joy you felt in third grade will return!

  • Plan a Get-Together

Pick a classic movie, for instance, or a new rom-com and watch together with your group, in person or virtually.  If you’re not yet ready to return to a movie theater, streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime offer a “watch party” option that lets you all tune in simultaneously and discuss in real time. Or you can simply arrange to watch the same movie and have a Zoom review to discuss afterwards.

Then keep it up with other regular activities throughout the year, such as a picnic, book club, walk in the park, and whatever else inspires you to gather with others.

  • Share Your Feelings  

Whether loneliness and social isolation are new to you or not, the problem is now recognized as having a negative effect on millions of seniors. The pandemic so amplified and normalized loneliness that a once-sensitive topic is now easier to discuss.

For some older adults, medical visits are one of the few social contacts they have. When they’re lonely, having a healthcare provider to talk to establishes a human connection that can relieve negative feelings and improve moods for a better outlook and quality of life.  Conversely, skipping visits can have both physical and mental health consequences. Make sure that you or a loved one stay up-to-date with necessary care.

This is especially important for caregivers, who report high levels of loneliness. To avoid increasing stress, health problems, and burnout, caregivers need to be able to talk to their healthcare team. They should also consider joining a caregiver support group as sharing feelings with those with the same experience can help reduce a sense of isolation. Check to see whether Capital Caring Health offers a support group that might be right for you. You can also contact your local AARP chapter or local Area Agency on Aging for groups in your area or available online.

  • Help Others

According to research, helping others also helps us help ourselves. Just by connecting with others, we gain mental and physical health benefits as well, including promoting better thinking skills. And it provides a much-needed service to the beneficiary of your actions. As to how to help, the sky’s the limit! Cook a meal for an elderly neighbor, stay in touch with someone who lives alone and feels isolated, run an errand for a friend who’s housebound, or mow a lawn. Don’t forget to ask what specific help your recipient might need, keeping your own limitations in mind.

For a more focused approach, consider joining an organized volunteer effort, in person or online. Many organizations will work with you to match your interests, skills, and your preferred level of commitment whether that’s an hour of time once or a regular commitment. Consider checking with Capital Caring Health—we depend on our volunteers and they play many different roles helping those in need. You can also contact your church, neighborhood library or community center or local AARP chapter.

  • Write it Down

If you’re feeling isolated, sometimes social connection isn’t possible or something you want at the moment. Writing about your feelings of loneliness can help you think about it, reflect, and better understand how you feel and why. Journaling also brings emotional relief and has other health benefits, as well.

Choose whatever format works best for you—a bound journal, notebook, or online diary. It’s up to you whether your thoughts on the topic remain private or you choose to share and potentially discuss. However, sharing what you write enhances personal connections and can be an intervention against loneliness.

We Help You Stay Connected and Feel Less Isolated, Too!

Everything Capital Caring Health (CCH) does has the comfort and well-being of patients and families in mind. For all, that requires a healthcare team that stays in close touch with visits—almost always in the home—and by phone. We also offer support groups and individual counseling as part of maintaining our connection.

CCH volunteers are always available for companionship, virtually or in person. In fact, volunteers make several “tuck-in” calls to hospice patients each week to  ask how  they are and whether they need anything.

When in-person visits were restricted during the pandemic, we developed creative ways to stay connected. For instance, patients and families received tablets for a direct link to their care team and a way to stay in touch with family and friends. And CCH volunteers—including local high school students—sent cards and letters to seniors to let them know someone was thinking of them.

CCH’s care and support are designed to help patients and families stay connected and feel less isolated, especially during the most challenging of times. We are always here for you—24/7—in the ways that matter. That’s our valentine to you—every day of the year.