Friday, August 26, 2011

Description and Interpretation of Loneliness

Taken from my doctoral dissertation "Loneliness and Lived Experiences of Elderly Individuals Living Independently: Hermeuneutic Phenomenological Approach.
Rev. Dr. Peter Abas

A State of No Direction

Loneliness is like losing my path of where I am going. It is a searching kind of experience.

A feeling of being lost.
Four participants in my study described their loneliness as feeling lost; there is no literature that speaks directly to this experience of loneliness. Feeling lost occurs when other people are not able to help to give the participant a sense of understanding and meaning. According to Adrian, a sense of loss is created from being alone. He stated, “When my wife died, my emotions were unclear and I did not know which way to turn.” People are often used to depending on others to help them complete their daily tasks. This quote by Sonia validates the previous statement, “after my husband passed away, I was lost and burdened with many tasks.” People gain a sense of identity by being around other people. If one is lonely and no others are around to support him/her, he/she often loses his/her sense of identity. According to Sandra, “since all my children are gone, and I have been left alone, I don’t know who I am anymore.” Confusion precedes feeling absolutely lost because there is, in general, no maintenance of the sense of identity or the sense of self. In summary, these quotes serve as a support for the incidental theme of feeling lost, but there was no existing literature about this subject matter.

It is difficult to lose someone (her husband). Confusion hits me very much. I am stuck and need direction. –Josephine-

A feeling of confusion.
Another incidental theme that is not directly mentioned in literature is the feeling of confusion. There were six participants who mentioned this feeling of confusion in their descriptions. One piece of literature did mention something about this emotion, however, the reference speaks more specifically about “identity confusion”. Salder and Johnson (1980) stated: “The experience of social loneliness is often quite complex. Consider, for example, the problem of identity confusion which may be an integral part of the social dimension of loneliness” (p. 53). In contrast the participants in this study were addressing in this study confusion about being alone and the inability to handle chores in their daily lives. Alice also sees that “loneliness is similar to getting out of confusion and searching for direction.” Once very functional in their everyday lives, these participants were becoming aware of the fact that they were beginning to become confused about doing things they once did automatically. Adrian states, “…now that she (his wife) is gone, many things, I once knew how to do are confusing to me.” Sonia adds, “After my husband died, many things that I was capable to do have since confused, me totally.” Sometimes, the end result was even incapacitation to the extent that others had to become involved in order to achieve a functional lifestyle. This, then, can be described as having feelings of confusion, due to this predominant and underlying inability to rationalize and discern.
I am trying to understand my situation better; this is loneliness for me because there is no one who truly empathizes.-Vicky-

A feeling of lack of understanding.
The incidental theme of the feeling of a lack of understanding is very prominent among the participants’ descriptions. There were six participants who described feeling a lack of understanding. It was very clear that their descriptions were based on their lived other components of lived experiences. The participants looked into their inner selves and assessed that nobody understood their situations. Sonia emphatically states, “unfortunately, family members’ lack of understanding makes me feel lonely.” In addition to the previous statement, Jessica offered a similar testimony. “When others do not understand my experience it is a lonely feeling for me.” She adds, “It is just a matter of knowing that this is my life and I need to have a direction.
There is no literature that corroborates this incidental theme, thus, it is another incidental theme that is worth researching in an in-depth way. The need for more in-depth research is underscored by the frequency with which the participants mentioned this in their descriptions. In this study, not being understood has been identified as the initial feeling of loneliness.

Losing the natural balance of psychological well-being has been proven to be precipitated by feelings of loneliness due to the three incidental themes described in this section. First, feeling that one is lost gives that person a helpless feeling and frustrates attempts at recalling previously learned abilities and behaviors. Next, feeling confused brings about a concern that it is important to be able to “get right” with the world so that the course can be re-charted. But when confused, there seems to be no where to turn. Lastly, trying to convey the lost and confused state to others poses the problem of then becoming greatly misunderstood, thus leading to the inevitable lonely feeling that sets in and becomes deep-seated and constant. Generally, “a state of no direction” is the end result of the incidental themes that occur while these persons experienced loneliness.

In concluding this section, it is noteworthy to discuss the fact that there is evidence of a lack of corroborative literature available when addressing some of these incidental themes that were used to describe loneliness. In particular, it seemed that the more depth these incidental themes possessed, the less corroborating literature there was available on that particular theme. It demonstrates how difficult it is to fathom the words spoken, but it is ironically very easy to empathize with the feelings expressed. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to chronicle situational feelings in documentation format without losing their total meanings. When listening to the participants explore the feelings of being lost, for example, the term “lost”, took on an array of nuances when utilized in these various interviews. Corroborative literature, however, did not exist pertinent to the term lost. As discussed previously, inner suffering is almost impossible to quantify or document because of its extreme profundity. Likewise, the feeling of being overwhelmed is also too broad a topic to describe because of the range of problematic situations that could be included in the overwhelming situations. All in all, these specific incidental themes have proven to be the area of greatest concern in the ongoing study of loneliness in that the need has emerged for additional study in these individual areas of the characteristics of loneliness. In the following section the area of interpretation will be explained and evaluated relative to the responses of these participants.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Training programs for Care-givers

Rev.Dr. Abas earned his doctorate in education with a specialization in geriatric populations in December of 2007 from the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. In addition to the doctorate, Father Abas also has three master’s degrees and has worked in a variety of fields, including youth ministry with street gangs in the Bronx. At St. Anne, Father Abas has led several initiatives for the elderly, including discussion groups and an intergenerational drum circle.

He also completed his Gerontology Certificate Program from Lifespan/John Fisher College, Rochester, NY. In addition to this, he also completed his learning at the Alzheimer’s Learning Institute – Monroe Community Hospital, Rochester, NY (Completed the Dementia Specific Care giving: Train the Trainer).

In the year of 2007: Lifespan/John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
(Completed Gerontology Certificate Program)
Facilitator Rev. Dr. peter Abas

• Physiological Aspect of Aging
• Economic Aspects of Aging
• Social and Public Policy
• Creativity and the Aging Brain
• Mental Health Assessment
• Issues of Sexuality and the Elderly
• Communication Skills
• Counseling Older Adults and Families
• Loss, Separation and Grief
• Stress and Burnout
• Spiritual Eldering
• Aging and Substance Abuse
• Aging and Emotional Issues
• Aging and Nutrition
• Aging and Women
• Medications and Older Adults
• Aging and Legal Issues
• Aging and Ethics of Life

In the year of 2006: Alzheimer’s Learning Institute – Monroe Community Hospital, Rochester, NY
(Completed the Dementia Specific Care giving: Train the Trainer)

• Nuts and Bolts of Dementia Care
• Effective Communication in Dementia Care
• Problem Solving & Managing Behavioral Issues in Dementia Care
• End of Life
• Sexuality and Intimacy
• Spirituality and Aging
• Meaningful Activities for Dementia Specific Care
• Dementia and Music –Making a Connection
• Dementia Art and the Quality of Life
• How to Work With Families

Rochester Priest Studies Loneliness in the Elderly

Rochester Priest Studies Loneliness in the Elderly

By Amy Kotlarz, Rochester Catholic Courier

February 28, 2008

To get a handle on loneliness in the elderly, Rev.Dr Peter Abas, parochial administrator at St. Anne Parish in Rochester, asked seniors he was counseling to describe their lives through art.

Together, they painted a picture. One woman contributed a cactus to the canvas.

“Life for her is a cactus -- so dry,” he said.

That was just one metaphor of many that seniors used to describe their lives to Father Abas as he researched his doctoral dissertation on how elderly individuals describe and interpret the experience of loneliness.

“Loneliness is the existence of a powerful void; the state of being overwhelmed with work and life; the state of emotional pain; and the state of no direction,” he said.

He earned his doctorate in education with a specialization in geriatric populations in December of 2007 from the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. In addition to the doctorate, Father Abas also has three master’s degrees and has worked in a variety of fields, including youth ministry with street gangs in the Bronx. At St. Anne, Father Abas has led several initiatives for the elderly, including discussion groups and an intergenerational drum circle.

In January, Father Abas left to take a seven-week journey back to his native Borneo, where he grew up in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Speaking in an interview prior to his trip, he said he intends to continue his research by interviewing the elderly in Borneo as well. He said he plans to compare whether a different cultural background changes how people describe loneliness.

He said work on his doctorate “Loneliness and Lived Experiences of Elderly Individuals Living Independently: A Hermeneutic Phenomological Approach” took two years to complete. He recruited volunteers from throughout upstate New York who were 65 years and older and living independently. All were from different professional backgrounds, and his research subjects included a retired social worker, a retired English teacher and a retired professional truck driver.

Father Abas had the seniors describe their everyday lives, then he was able to interpret the meaning of the phrases they used and the words they said to him.

“I couldn’t jump to the conclusion of whether they were lonely or not,” Father Abas noted.

As he began to explore the theme of loneliness more, Father Abas asked people what they did when they were lonely, how they would explain the reason for their loneliness and how they would describe their experience with loneliness.

“Some of them found it easy to speak, and they were very open with their story,” Father Abas said. “Some found it really difficult.”

Although he was confronted with initial reluctance, Father Abas did have success when he asked the elderly to describe a favorite memory, which led to disclosures about loneliness.

“I could even see some of them really feel a burden in their lives,” he said.

Many used metaphors to describe their lives, such as a flowing river, a flower, a cross, a sunset, an oak tree, an entangled circle or a spinning top.

After a while, though, as participants continued meeting with Father Abas, some began to look at the world in more positive ways. For example, the person who described life as a flowing river amended the statement to say the river was not that treacherous.

“It’s flowing much better,” Father Abas recalled the person saying.

Sue Murty, director of social work at St. Ann’s Community in Rochester, said isolation and loneliness in the elderly can be caused by the loss of loved ones; the loss of independence, such as the loss of driving abilities; and the loss of physical abilities, such as hearing or mobility.

She said seniors often are reluctant to talk about being lonely, so neighbors and friends should keep watch for signs of changes in routine, reclusive behavior or depression. Another sign may be an eagerness to talk for a long time, she said. Friends and neighbors should begin asking questions if they see signs of loneliness, she noted.

“Start by saying, who else do you get support from? Are there other persons in your life?” Murty said.

Father Abas said other ways to cope with loneliness include having a strong faith, acknowledging the importance of prayer, accepting loss and coming to terms with the fact that a person is alone.

It also is important for seniors to take care of their health so that a loss of mobility does not isolate them, he said. Seniors also should consider the time and talents that they are able to give, and they should maintain social connections to counter loneliness.

“Within the church parish level, they can join a social-programming group or some involvement in their church,” Father Abas said.

Most importantly, seniors should turn to others if they are feeling isolated, he noted.

“The way to work through it is to ask for help from people,” Father Abas said.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prayer is needed too...

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, may it through your intercession the "dream" to start the home of hope in Borneo will be fulfilled!

Praying for intercession of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha at her Shrine in Fonda, NY.

Sunday, August 21, 2011