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Housebound and yearning for companionship: Any other thoughts for this reader?

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QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm 63 years old, and housebound due to health and mobility problems. My family works so they can't come every day. I find myself sitting alone in the house day after day and would love to have someone visit, and sit and talk to me. I've even thought of taking someone in to live here free of charge just for company but I'm a bit frightened of having a stranger move in. I sometimes need to use oxygen and because I'm alone, I panic when I'm breathing badly.

Signed, Lonely

ANSWER

Dear Lonely,

It sounds like you are having a difficult time. Given your health problems, there should be social services available in your community to assist you. The first thing any agency would probably do is conduct an assessment to see how they can help.

If you qualify based on your medical condition, you may be able to receive services in your home on a regular basis. For example, this might include a visiting nurse to check your vital signs and make sure your oxygen intake is adequate, a social worker to talk to you and help you adjust to your situation, and a daily delivery of Meals on Wheels---not only for good nutrition but to provide an opportunity for you to have contact with someone each day.

One way to start the ball rolling is to contact the city or county agency responsible for social services where you live. (It's usually called a Department of Social Services). You can use the Eldercare Locator to find this and other help in your community. (They also have a toll-free number, 1-800-677-1116). If you can't handle this independently, you might ask someone in your family to help.

Finally, if you are comfortable contacting a religious group or volunteer organization in your neighborhood, they may be able to set up some regular type of visiting program for you. There are many people your age, older, and younger who would love the opportunity to volunteer and provide companionship to others.

While it may be tempting to take in a boarder, you have to be very careful about allowing someone you don't know into your home. If you do require live-in help, perhaps the social service agency that does the assessment can make some recommendations to you.

It's terrific that you are on the internet. While it can't substitute for human companionship, it is probably a great source of information and stimulation for you. I also hope you make use of the telephone to call family and friends. Finally, one other thought, do you have any pets? Animals help many people feel less lonely.

I hope a few of these ideas are useful. Perhaps other readers will add their thoughts and advice. My warmest regards and best wishes to you,

Irene

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Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her recent book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.