We know for a fact that:
- Loneliness is a significant problem for ALL ages but particularly for the elderly
- Loneliness can affect your physical health. Ongoing loneliness can cause as much damage as heart disease or diabetes
This article looks at tackling loneliness head on by:
- Acknowledging and removing the stigma of loneliness
- Tailoring our ‘cure’ to fit the persons needs
The stigma of loneliness
Very often people see loneliness as a negative reflection of them as a person. The self-talk that goes on in their mind is ‘I cannot be that interesting a person if I am so lonely’ When they see happy groups of people around them they wonder ‘how did I get in this position?’ Those of us who work with the elderly need to help them accept the following
- Loneliness can, and does, happen to a wide range of people; as an affliction, it is not personal
- The normal events of life such as divorce, death, moving home or job, can lead to a person becoming alone without support systems. For example, an overseas aid worker such as myself has a busy exotic life working with teams of people all over the world. But what happens when I stop travelling and settle in one place? I find my friends are only on email and there is no one local to call up and ask out for a coffee and chat.
In the end, it does not really matter how one becomes lonely, but it does matter how you deal with it.
Tailoring our ‘cure’ to fit the persons need
For the person who is mobile and has the confidence, there is a vast choice of groups and activities in the Tendring area. From the Fuschia growers society to the indoor bowls club to the Heritage Trust – one would have to try hard NOT to find a group that matches one of your interests. The Tendring Community Voluntary Sector hold a database of all these groups and their volunteers can assist people to do a search.
For people who are not mobile, this need not be a barrier as Tendring Community Transport can provide specialised transport to take clients to activities. And most of the private cab companies are adept at handling walkers and wheelchairs if notified in advance.
If going out alone is the problem, domiciliary care companies such as Home Instead can provide carers to drive a person to their event, keep them company during it and bring them home again. Often, if people do this they find they build up their confidence and are able to fly solo!
For those people who cannot, or do not want to go out for companionship, there are ‘cures ‘ for them too. There are two agencies which can provide weekly phone calls from volunteers matched to the client. These are the Age UK telephone friendship and the Age Concern Befriending Service. When they have sufficient resources, the Age Concern Befriending also offer home visits. The above two services are free of charge. Another choice is to book one to one companionship calls with a care company and the rates vary from £15-£21 per hour. From our experience, the stigma of paying for companionship is the main barrier to clients and their families asking for this service. People much more readily book care to help them with personal care, housework or managing their medications.
If this blog has stirred up questions or concerns, I recommend you talk to one of the agencies mentioned in the article and the contact details are given below. A very good starting point are the Community Agents Essex who look at all the key factors to a person being able to live well at home, including social activities. Also we are happy to share our resource file and experience with people looking to reduce loneliness.
Community Agents Essex
08009 775 858
Tendring Community Transport
01255 436 962
Age UK Telephone Friendship
0800 434 6105
Age Concern Befriending
01255 421 302
01255 672 269