What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?

28 May 2015
 Categories: , Blog


If you have a loved one who is aging, you might be wondering when is a good time to suggest assisted living or nursing home living. One way to do this is look for signs of empty nest syndrome. This is a syndrome that occurs frequently with older adults who no longer have their children or grandchildren living at home, and many of them also do not have a spouse as a companion. Here are some things to know about empty nest syndrome.

How does empty nest syndrome occur?

Empty nest syndrome can occur at any age, though it is more common for older adults. This happens when someone who once had a household filled with loved ones, is suddenly living all alone. Married couples can also experience this, but it tends to occur most often with a single parent or an older adult who is a widow. Some parents experience it when their children leave for college, while others had their children and grandchildren under one roof, but then they moved a long distance away. Not everyone experiences this, but some have it more severely and it can have a drastic effect on their life.

What are the signs and symptoms to look out for?

There are some warning signs that could signal someone is suffering from empty nest syndrome. The most common signs include feelings of sadness, depression, and loneliness when their family moves out of their home. These feelings could come on suddenly, or take a while to sink in. Also look at the behaviors of your relative who you believe might have this condition. They may be spending a lot of time in their child's bedroom or constantly looking through photo albums of their family. They may also verbalize their grief, talking about how they don't know what to do with themselves now or what their life's purpose is.

How can you help?

There are some things you can do to help a loved one who has empty nest syndrome. Here are some different tips and strategies for helping them through this difficult time:

  • Visit them often. If you live locally, make it a point to visit your parent or grandparent often, and bring your kids along. Don't just visit on holidays, but try to schedule small visits every month or so throughout the year.
  • Keep in contact from a distance. If you moved far away, still keep in contact. Call them on the phone, send an email, or use a video messaging service from your phone or computer.
  • Send care packages. Another way to show them you miss them and are thinking about them is by sending care packages. Include their favorite foods, books, and magazines, and photographs of what you have been doing since you left.
  • Encourage other activities. Find some other activities they might be interested in and will get them some social interaction. Sign them up for an adult class or encourage them to join a local book club.

In the most severe cases, someone with empty nest syndrome might not be suitable for living alone. You might want to suggest having them move to an independent living facility where they are still on their own, but with others who might be experiencing the same thing. There are also assisted living communities like Colonial Residence, where they live in an apartment building with others their age, though daily care is also provided.