Combating Loneliness, Making a Difference

In home care, we see how debilitating loneliness can be to patients and clients. One local organization, FriendshipWorks, is looking to light candles in the darkness of social isolation.

So much of what we are about in home care is connecting those who might otherwise go without it to the care they need. Every home care nurse, therapist, or aide has been in a home where she/he might be the only person that patient/client has seen in days. We see loneliness, and we see how debilitating it can be.

Many studies have proven what a home care nurse knows from first-hand observation: Loneliness can be bad for someone’s health. On a national level, AARP has recognized what its  medical director, Dr. Charlotte Yeh, calls the “power and presence of loneliness” in its Connect2Affect campaign.

Through some of our home care colleagues, I have recently been introduced to one local organization looking to light candles in the darkness of social isolation. For 35 years, FriendshipWorks has been training volunteers to provide companionship and emotional support to older adults across Greater Boston. They provide what more than one study has called “The Healing Power of Presence.”

Considering how the organization’s volunteers accompany their older friends to critical medical appointments, FriendshipWorks is a vital resource for many of Boston’s academic medical centers.

Matt Fishman, Vice President for Community Health at Partners HealthCare, sees the difference FriendshipWorks volunteers make. “While it may be less quantifiable than some of our other metrics impacting patient outcomes and healing, we can see the reduced anxiety associated with having someone to take you and be there with you for a medical appointment, especially when you might be receiving a difficult diagnosis or set of instructions,” Matt says. That a less-anxious patient is definitely a patient more able to engage and have a quality experience, is central to the work of Christine Dempsey in “The Antidote to Suffering.”

Experienced home care executives, Andrea Cohen, Founder and CEO of HouseWorks, and Denise McQuaide, President and COO of Benchmark Wellness Management (formerly, president of Care Group Parmenter Home Care & Hospice), are co-hosting a 35th anniversary event on Nov. 21 to support FriendshipWorks. If you would like to get on board this important cause and enjoy the great entertainer Darlene Love in an intimate setting, you can get all the info you need here.

Any ideas or experiences about the interest of loneliness and health and healing, send them along to me. Happy to continue to share.

Author: Pat Kelleher

Pat Kelleher is Executive Director of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s