Shay Jacobson, RN, MA, NMG, LNCC, CNLCP
Martha Kern

Solitary

An already limited world was slowly becoming smaller.

Jeff, a 62-year-old man living alone in his home, was retreating from the world. He wasn’t answering phone messages or emails, and generally kept to himself.

His environment was literally shrinking. He filled each room with waist-high paper and debris of all kinds. Narrow pathways allowed him to go from room to room.

Deaf from birth, Jeff was comfortable with the silence.

Less comfortable for Jeff was the stark aloneness he was experiencing, and the creeping effects it was having on his outlook, his house, and his day-to-day movements.

How Did I Get Here?
Not everyone who finds themselves alone can point to the moment when the isolation began. For Jeff, it was the day his girlfriend died. The two were together for years, and shared a home, and her death was entirely unexpected.

Jeff’s parents had been the center of his life before Marilyn came along and they, too, had died.

As a deaf man, it was no simple feat for Jeff to make new friends. He had gradually lost contact with his friends in the deaf community. And, more importantly, he was slowly losing interest in even having friends. It had been his recent experience that the people he loved had a tendency to leave him.

So Jeff toiled away on his own. His dogs assumed a role of great importance. He could neither hear nor call them, though, so he preferred not to let them out in the yard. Instead, he carpeted his home with puppy pads that were, in turn, carpeted with signs of repeated use.

The Path to Better Things
Despite his best efforts, Jeff could not escape the care and concern of his cousin, Bob. Bob was Jeff’s Power of Attorney and closest family member. Bob’s job required frequent and lengthy trips to California, however, and the best contact he could manage most of the time was email and TTY telephone calls.

Jeff found these approaches easy to avoid. It was simpler in some ways to just be alone with his dogs and his anxiety, his hoarded materials and his memories.

Bob persisted. He ordered a new television, telephone, computer and printer for Jeff to enable more and better communication. His great challenge, though, was that he couldn’t get Jeff to respond to emails alerting him to the imminent arrival of the electronics, and he knew in his heart that the new equipment would stay on the porch, or just wind up in a pile in the house, untouched.

Unsure of what to do, Bob reached out to the trust officer who had handled Jeff’s parents’ trust and who had known Jeff for most of his adult life. It was through this connection that LCI was called.

First Things First
Bob asked that we visit Jeff immediately to ensure he was aware that electronics would be arriving any day and needed to be removed from the porch where they might be stolen. We also arranged with Jeff to set up the electronics when they arrived so he could learn to use them and become more responsive to Bob’s communications.

Bob had also arranged for some home improvements to be performed. Jeff’s copious personal property would, however, prevent the workers from getting to the areas in need of repair. We methodically helped Jeff clear these areas, room by room, and render his home more functional again. The repairs were completed, as was the installation of high-speed internet.

Also pressing for Jeff was the need to locate tax-related documents. Intermingled in the piles of paper were important documents his tax accountant was seeking as April 15 approached. This time-sensitive task was managed, as well.

The Chapters Ahead
The remainder of Jeff’s needs will take some time. He hasn’t seen a doctor in years, despite having multiple diagnoses, including diabetes and hypertension. His teeth are also in need of professional attention. Additional hoarded rooms in the home require careful sorting and organization, and a plan must be developed to ensure the dogs have access to the yard a few times each day.

Jeff understands that his diet is poor, that he needs to have a more organized approach to medication use, and that his social sphere has become unnecessarily small. His new equipment has made it easier for Bob to communicate with him and Bob also works through Jeff’s care managers to convey messages and prioritize plans.

Jeff continues to struggle with depression and anxiety, and he finds it difficult at times to avoid accumulating more personal property in his home. He is gradually growing more interested in the activities and programs we find for him, and he has come to enjoy our visits and the increasing sense of friendship that comes of working together to solve problems.

Most important, Jeff’s world is becoming just a little bit larger, both figuratively and literally, as connections increase and clutter diminishes. Jeff is not so solitary anymore, and he has someone close by to call when feelings or problems crowd his mind.

© Lifecare Innovations