The Psychological Effect of Being Homebound or Bedfast

The unrelenting desire for control and independence.  These are fundamental aspects of the human condition.  Happiness and satisfaction are often connected to the level of control and independence we feel in our lives.  However, for many who are unable to leave the house or are unable to even get out of bed, a condition commonly referred to as being “bedfast,” the loss of control and independence can fuel a downward spiral in psychological functioning.

Research has shown that rates of mental illness often increase in those individuals who are homebound and/or bedfast.  And, although the reasons for this association are not entirely understood, it is thought that loss of control and independence are major underlying factors.  However, these are not the only factors.  Individuals who are homebound and/or bedfast must often rely on others to care for them – helping to perform simple, everyday tasks like bathing or toileting.  This can foster feelings of helplessness.  Those who are homebound or bedfast frequently complain of feeling trapped within their homes and, in some cases, their bodies.  They long to be able to do more for themselves and struggle with feeling like they have become a burden for those caring for them.  At the same time, life at home can be very lonely and boring.  The days and nights can seem like an eternity.  The range of interesting activities can become restricted.  Unable to leave the home without assistance, those who are homebound or bedfast often define their social lives by the few people who visit them at their homes – frequently only home healthcare providers or agency professionals.

Still, the socialization afforded by human contact and conversation is vital to the psychological well-being of those confined to the house or the bed.  There is something curative about being able to discuss current events or reminisce about life.  In the end, just knowing that others care and are willing to listen can make those who are homebound or bedfast feel understood and provide the support to make it through a very difficult situation.