senior woman looking out a window

You’ve tried to keep your loved one outgoing and active. You offer to drive her to friends’ houses and organize get-togethers. But over the years, your elderly loved one has become more and more isolated.

Many seniors are shut-ins, either unwilling or unable to leave their houses because of a physical disability, or mental obstacles such as agoraphobia or social anxiety. If you can’t get your loved one out of the house, how do you help them?

Read on for our top five tips to help your shut-in loved one.

  1. Empathize. It’s easy to get frustrated with someone who won’t leave the house, so try looking at things from their perspective. Seeing others walking down the sidewalk, laughing with their families, is probably difficult for your loved one. Isolation probably feels more like a prison than a choice. Staying sympathetic will make it much easier to find ways to help.
  2. Visit. Especially if the shut-in is your parent, visiting can be the single best way you can help. Make stopping in a weekly ritual, when you and your loved one can watch a favorite TV show together, cook a meal, or just chat.
  3. Be a positive influence. Whether your loved one is dealing with a physical or mental disability that keeps her in the house, it’s not a happy experience. Try to be a sunny part of your loved ones life. Tell funny stories, or bring photos of the grandkids to lift your loved one’s spirits.
  4. Get out of the house. If your loved one is house-bound because of a physical disability, she may want to get outside more than anything. It may be difficult for her to get out of the car and walk around, so going for a drive might be the best option. A long scenic drive or even a trip around the neighborhood may brighten her spirits when she sees familiar places.
  5. Make small gestures. Find out what your loved one likes to brighten his or her day a little more. If she used to love gardening, bring her favorite plant. If she loves word games, buy her a Scrabble board you can use together. These small gestures will make a world of difference to your loved one.

Do you have a loved one who is a shut-in? How do you deal with the situation? Share your tips with others in the comments.

  • Lesley Mills

    Singing and sunlight!
    My mother has ALzheimer’s and this article made me realize what a great job we’ve done with her live in caregiver. Sunshine and has been shown to improve peoples’ spirits so we expanded the windows and use blinds instead of curtains.
    Sitting in the warm sun with a hat on can transport anyone. As Mom’s dementia progressed, we’ve moved her chair closer and closer to the window so the scene is more dominant.
    I could write a book on the importance of singing (and some people have). It’s magic how we remember lyrics and melody long after words are gone. And find any excuse to hold hands, stroke, cuddle and have close eye-to-eye contact. They keep your spirits up too. I had to teach my Mom how to be comfortable with hugs. Now, with no words, it’s our strongest communication.

  • Rhonda Harlin

    My neighbor is 102, living alone in her 3 bedroom home. Getting out is more difficult for her so visits from her neighbors is deeply cherished. I agree with the comments that have been made. I would just add, (from my own experience) to just slow down and be present when you do visit. In our fast paced world it could be easy to rush in and out. We need to give ourselves enough time to truly be there with them.

  • Deanna R. Jones

    Thanks for the information! My mother can’t go out very much because of the condition she’s in, so it’s helpful to know what I need to do to help her. I really liked your tip to take her out on drives. She loves going on walks, but her condition makes it extremely difficult to walk around without pain. I’m sure that she’ll enjoy going on more scenic drives.