After a whole year of lockdown, most of us have experienced loneliness at some point. Loneliness within the elderly has never been more of an ongoing battle than this past year.
According to Age UK, recent research has found that there is around “1.4m chronically lonely older people in England and many more across the rest of the UK”. That feeling of loneliness can be almost as dangerous to our health as smoking around 15 cigarettes per day. Therefore, it is crucial that we take the time to understand how those feelings of loneliness can impact our nearest and dearest.
What is Loneliness Awareness Week?
Hosted by Marmalade Trust, the week-long campaign raises awareness of loneliness and strives to get people talking about it.
It is within our basic human instincts to want and need contact with other people. For the elderly, loneliness is also a leading cause of mental health with isolation and mental wellbeing frequently linked.
Main causes of loneliness
For many older people, the separation between friends and family can be a leading cause for loneliness. Despite social distancing has made connecting harder this past year, other factors can come into play.
Family members may have other commitments such as work, and with retirement adding more hours to the day, an emotional distance can also develop. Friendships can also become distanced as we age, so your loved ones may find it harder to keep in touch. Older people often move away as they downsize or live with family members.
Health conditions can also make it hard to meet up, and communication can become a struggle. As we grow older, elderly people tend to become more vulnerable making mobility more challenging than before.
On the upside, loneliness is just a feeling which can be eliminated by recognising and introducing even the simplest of activities for your loved ones to do.
Recognising loneliness in the elderly
It is crucial that we all can recognise loneliness amongst our loved ones. While the signs can be hard to identify, there are some key indicators to be aware of.
At Portland Nursing Home, we have found having conversations with your loved ones are one of the main ways to spot loneliness early. Some people who feel lonely tend to talk a lot more, while others drop subtle hints that they would like to talk to others.
When feeling lonely, there are a few behavioural changes that can become apparent. Some isolated individuals are known to begin to act more extroverted. Others find themselves acting out of character during social interactions.
How to help elderly individuals who are feeling lonely
Here at Portland, we regularly host a range of activities to improve wellbeing and reduce loneliness. Some of our resident’s favourite activities are:
Arts and Crafts
– These sessions provide ample opportunity to socialise and work on projects with other residents in the home, decreasing feelings of loneliness.
Listening to music
– For our residents, music is a therapeutic experience. During times of loneliness, music has had the power to bring back many positive memories.
Staying connected with loved ones
– Before visitations were permitted, video calls were a regular occurrence at our home. This allowed residents to connect with some of the most specific people in their lives.
As a home that puts high-quality care at the heart of everything, we encourage all our residents to participate in different experiences that can support them most.
Now COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease, we recommend checking out the local area and see if anything is happening. Many community centres host meeting groups and activity sessions and local day centres could also be a good option as they deliver activities and the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
If you should be unavailable, providing a list of professional support and helplines is a good way to help your loved ones.
Similarly, The Silver Line (0800 470 8090) also provide befriending. This is alongside a supportive environment for people to talk about their feelings.
Feelings of isolation along with escalating health issues, could be a sign that a person needs additional support. A nursing home can provide individuals with the opportunity to live comfortably and healthily as they’ll be receiving all the support they need while being able to enjoy the company of others.
Situated in the heart of historic Buxton, Portland Nursing Home supports a small community of 40 residents. We provide both physical and mental stimulation for those with dementia and nursing care needs. We are still welcoming new residents and have clear policies and procedures in place to be able to do this safely.
As restrictions are gradually easing, we can welcome loved ones back into our home. Visits from friends and family truly lift our resident’s mood, especially in these difficult times.
For information and guidance on how to book a visit, please read our other blog here or call our friendly team on 01298 23040.