Human beings are social animals from the day we’re born until the end of life. Residents in nursing homes do not get to see their spouses, children, grandchildren and friends every day as people do at home. Sometimes family members live too far away or just don’t have the time to see their relative in the nursing home, and loneliness and depression can be the result. Residents who were used to doing things for their families can find themselves wondering what to do next.

Loneliness and depression are associated with health problems, including heart disease and infectious disease. People without social connections can lose their appetites or develop weakened immune systems. Residents who are elderly with health problems need to keep up what health they do have to the best extent possible.

Fortunately, many nursing homes have common rooms and dining rooms where residents can interact, and residents should be encouraged to use whatever common areas there are. Some have pianos and organize song festivals, and some have visiting lecturers or parties where residents can socialize. If you see two or more residents sitting in the dining room or common room and not interacting, introduce them. If a resident assigned to you is able to get up and into a chair, then help him or her to go down the hall and into the common room to be able to socialize with other residents.

If the facility where you work has no such amenities, taking the resident out onto the patio where other residents are enjoying the fresh air or for a walk around the block can provide a treat. Residents who are too weak to walk a long distance can enjoy a ride in a wheelchair, and can become acquainted with people who work nearby.

Some residents like to write letters or postcards to friends and family, and seeing that they have papers and pens can be helpful. If visitors would like to know what to get the residents for holidays and birthdays, suggest stationery, pens and stamps.

Talking to friends and family on the telephone is another way to stay in touch. Certified nurses’ assistants can assist residents in looking up telephone numbers and dialing for them if they have difficulty seeing or using their hands.

When friends and relatives do arrive, there is often little they have in common with residents, and conversation can lag. Suggest to visitors that they bring board games or cards so that they will have something to do to have fun entertaining the resident and themselves. Many families grew up playing board games, so it will bring back happy times. Games can even be left with residents so that they can have fun playing with other residents.

Churches, schools and community organizations frequently have volunteers who can go to nursing homes and provide human contact and entertainment. If you know of any such organizations, let them know where there is a nursing home where they can do some good. Local organizations can also be found online. Let your supervisor know the name of the head of the organization and ask volunteer coordinator to speak to the appropriate administrator to arrange for a visit.


Q.  Does socialization have an impact on the overall health of a patient?

A.  Nursing assistants will quickly note that socialization can have a big impact on the health and wellness of a patient.  Patients often have a better and faster recovery if they have good social connections.

Explanation:  Individuals with good social connection often have a better mood and are less likely to be depressed.  Depression or a negative outlook can make it difficult to recover from illness.  If patients socialize with their healthcare providers, other patients, and their own family and friends, they can certain see some improved health.

Q.  What are some things that a CNA can do to help their patients with socialization?

A.  CNAs should always take the time to talk to patients when they are able.  Provide patients with some paper and writing materials if they enjoy writing letters to friends and family members.  Invite patients to participate in activities and other social functions offered in the healthcare facility.  Assist a patient in finding phone numbers of friends and family members if they wish to make some phone calls.

Explanation:  A nursing assistant can go a long way in helping patients with their socialization.  The important thing is to always assist a patient in contacting friends and family when possible.  You should gently encourage residents to go to the social hall and to take part in other social events.  You can also take time to chat with patients if more than one patient is sitting together and seeming to have a little trouble striking up a conversation.

Q.  Is it important for nursing assistants to take time to chit chat with patients some?

A.  It is important for nursing assistants to take some time for chatting with patients when they have time.  Patients are often feeling afraid and a little lonely when they are in a healthcare setting.  It can go a long way in helping with their recovery if they feel connected to other people.

Explanation:  As a nursing assistant, you can help a patient to feel important and help them to know that they matter.  You can do this by taking time to really talk to your patients and to really listen to what they have to say.  Even if a patient needs to vent, you taking the time to listen will certainly help the patient to feel a little better about what they are going through.

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