Loneliness is a huge problem for older people all over the UK. Unfortunately in January, this can often be heightened. Christmas is a social time for families, with many elderly people getting so much enjoyment from this time with loved ones. Often this can tail off in the New Year, bringing increased feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
We recently conducted a piece of research that illustrated that while 93% of the UK’s elderly population spend time with family and friends over the festive period, 35% then see a family or friend just once a week or less from January onwards.
As many as 13% have little to no contact with family or friends throughout the year, while 65% of older people in the UK admit to feelings of loneliness.
That’s a huge number.
Recognising the signs of loneliness in a loved one
It isn’t always easy to spot the signs of loneliness in a loved one. Things you should look out for include:
- Neglecting their personal care and hygiene
- A lack of interest in food
- Feelings of worthlessness and not having a place in society
- Significant changes to a routine – getting up later in the day is usually a good indicator
- Little motivation to do the things they once enjoyed
- Problems sleeping
It’s important to look out for these signs. If someone close to you is struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation they may be reluctant to talk about it initially. If you begin to spot the signs, it’s important to help them as soon as you can rather than waiting for them to broach the subject themselves.
The impact of loneliness
Loneliness is associated with sleep issues, stress and mental health problems. Depression is a key issue for many struggling with loneliness. It can even bring with it an increased chance of death by accident or by suicide.
It can also impact an individual’s physical health.
Specifically, it has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, inflammation, and almost double the risk of a non-fatal stroke.
Older people that are lonely have a higher chance of functional decline meaning that they begin to struggle with self-care and performance of activities of daily living (ADL) such as dressing, bathing and going to the toilet.
How you can help your loved one
If you feel that your loved one may be lonely, you can help. Here is where you should start.
Spend time with them
Try and increase the frequency of your visits to make sure that they know that there is always someone there for them. Bring other family members with you to help them see that they’re part of a family unit. If you have small children in the family, make sure you bring them along as they will always bring plenty of joy.
Also ensure that you speak to your loved one about how they’re feeling. Don’t ignore it. Simply talking to someone about their issues and verbalising their thoughts and feelings can have a very positive impact.
Always take their needs into consideration
Sometimes, simply being there isn’t always enough.
You should do everything that you can to take their needs into consideration. If they’re having problems with their mental health, this can cause them to be forgetful. Unfortunately they may also become irritable, argumentative or sometimes confrontational. Often this won’t have been behaviour that you will have seen from them before.
Always remember how they are feeling and the reasons why they might be behaving in this way. Be patient and don’t let it deter you or discourage you from visiting. You being there and being sensitive to how they’re feeling is the best thing that you can do.
This can be hard for you, but it will benefit your loved one.
Look into potential options for help
It’s key to not only look for potential options for help yourself, but to encourage them that help is what they need. This could be a difficult conversation.
You should investigate local clubs for the elderly and any volunteering befriending services. You may also consider looking into home care or home help.
The benefits of elderly home care
First and foremost, opting for elderly home care means that your loved one will have someone there for them at home.
Elderly care packages can be tailored around the specific needs of your loved one. If they’re beginning to struggle with activities of daily living such as caring for their own personal care and hygiene, a home carer can assist with that on a daily basis. They may need some household help or have more complex healthcare requirements – if it’s the latter, home care can encompass more specialist care.
Elderly home or live-in care with Cera
Crucial to our home care services is companion care. All of the carers that work with us have the interpersonal skills to form close bonds with your loved one. We will match them specifically based on their personality and shared interests to encourage this. They will also do all that they can to encourage your loved one to socialise.
Key benefits of home care include:
- The structure of knowing that there will be someone coming to help at defined times
- Companionship and someone to talk to that shares similar interests
- Your peace of mind to know that your loved one’s health is looked after by an expert carer
- Household tasks being taken care of, meaning your visits can focus on spending quality time with your loved one and doing the things that make them happy
- Knowing that their routine is being adhered to if they need to take regular medication for example
Learn more about elderly care with Cera or contact us on 0333 455 2502 to discuss the needs of your elderly relative.