Who believes Garbo’s “I want to be alone” was a tragic flaw?

December 1, 2014

Q: Who believes Garbo’s “I want to be alone” was a tragic flaw?

A: Arise Home Health Care

Actress Greta Garbo’s penchant for alone-ness (Grand Hotel, 19321.) added mystery to her life, but we think it may have added misery as well.

Many people can function in solitude––an opportunity of quiet to reflect upon life or to meditate on the spiritual, to remove one’s self from the fast pace of society, or to enjoy an absorbing activity. A person may seek solitude for healthy reasons.

However, isolation is often imposed. Sometimes, it involves a loss of a friend through death. Sometimes, economic hardships have removed a person from a source of companionship–a workplace or neighborhood. Perhaps family has moved on, leaving a member behind. Loss of mobility, sight, hearing, or independence can impose isolation. Relocation to an assisted living or care facility further disrupts previous patterns of socialization. Ultimately, isolation is unhealthy.

According to a University of Chicago study, lonely persons have a 14% higher chance of dying prematurely than those who don’t. (See “Feeling lonely? It may increase your risk of early death.”2. and Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connections.3.)

Ninety-year-old Florence* is prone to loneliness. Her husband had suffered from multiple medical problems and dementia, demanding much of her until his death in 2009. She’d also been a community volunteer. However, since her balance and hearing had worsened, Florence had retired. So, she had plenty of time to languish. She rarely ate in the dining room or joined residents in the senior apartments for cards because of her hearing. Also, her inability to climb steps prevented bus rides to seniors’ outings. Florence often felt lonesome, which she shared with her family.

Family members had tried to keep her occupied, but they had busy lives, and only two lived in town. A daughter took her to breakfast on Sundays; a son had lunch and played Scrabble® with her during the week. All six children called regularly; it wasn’t enough.

So, her family called us, and Florence now has a companion. Chris takes her shopping and driving around the old neighborhood. Since Florence gets so much mail, Chris also helps with sorting and shredding. Chris has helped rearrange the apartment and Florence’s photos. And they’ve visited about children and big events in their lives.

“Chris is a big help,” says Florence’s daughter, Ellen*. “We’re part of a ‘sandwich generation,’ caught between caring for elderly parents and our own kids. I feel guilty that I can’t see Mom more often, but I have a day job, and visiting after dinner and dishes is too late. This way, I can ask Mom over the phone about her day with Chris.”

Chris performs those small acts of kindness that have a big impact on an elderly person living alone. When she reminds Florence about the exercise class offered at her apartment complex and encourages her to attend, or demonstrates how to use the single-serve coffeemaker and suggests she invite a neighbor in for a cup, Chris gives Florence ways to combat isolation. (See: “A hidden killer of elderly people––loneliness”4.)

We at Arise Home Health Care hire our exceptional staff from this community. These employees know their way around town for shopping or outings. Many have been with us since we opened 10 years ago. Family caregivers regularly call our registered nurse Paula Muggli to discuss the needs of their loved ones and use her as a community resource, knowledgeable about the eldercare network.

Children in the “sandwich generation” can trust Arise Home Health Care, just as Florence’s children do. We are a dedicated, passionate community resource and proponent for in-home companion care. Why? Because Arise cares about keeping seniors from being isolated.

Do you have a question for our professional Arise Home Health Care staff? Contact Us

* Not the individual’s real name.

1. “Grand Hotel” movie clip, http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/582338/Grand-Hotel-Movie-Clip-I-Want-To-Be-Alone-.html

2. “Feeling lonely? It may increase your risk of early death,” by Nancy Hellmich, USA TODAY magazine, 2/17/14,


3. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, John T. Cacioppo, http://www.amazon.com/Loneliness-Human-Nature-Social-Connection/dp/03933352833

4. “A hidden killer of elderly people: loneliness,” by Neville Zammit, 2/3/13,  http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130203/health-fitness/A-hidden-killer-of-elderly-people-loneliness.456195