How later life companionship and contact can really improve lives...

Loneliness Awareness week takes place annually and is aimed at raising the profile of this issue, across Devon and the UK.

Loneliness Awareness week takes place annually, during June. It’s created and hosted by the Marmalade Trust in a campaign created to raise awareness across the UK.

Loneliness is often cited as a reason for requiring our person-centred home care services, and drawing from our own experiences, human contact and conversation is vital to wellbeing.

Recent studies* conducted by both British and Chinese researchers, has found that social isolation may in fact shrink the brain and increase the risk of developing dementia. For this international research, scientists followed almost half a million people in the UK, with an average age of 57. The data was collected over a 12 year period and showed that those that had been socially isolated had a higher chance of developing dementia. In fact, they concluded that socially isolated people were 26 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

The pandemic pushed many individuals in to enforced isolation, and for our clients, our continued contact was their only source of regular company. For some, this remains the case. A touching tale of lockdown loneliness is played out in the short film, ‘Roy’, starring BAFTA winner David Bradley. It tells the story of how in desperation, reclusive widower Roy, passes his days by cold calling strangers from the phone book to grasp brief moments of companionship – a tragic image and a habit that leaves him clearly vulnerable to exploitation. The film is ultimately positive though, as a wonderful, albeit unlikely friendship is formed. You can find out more about this touching project, here.

Our own Care Professionals have first-hand experience with regard to the effects of loneliness and how their care and companionship has improved circumstance and wellbeing for Clients.

After three years with Home Instead, Care Professional Sylvia says that she can think of numerous clients for whom loneliness has been a major source of anxiety and distress. We agree, as this is often a cited factor in the client or their family members, sourcing care with Home Instead.

Sylvia says, “We started to support one client, Mr A, after he had suffered the trauma of falling in his own home, where he laid undiscovered for five days. Social services finally raised the alarm and his POA (Power of Attorney) made the very sensible decision that regular support needed to be put in to place. That’s where we came in. Mr A will openly tell me that our visits give him a ‘reason to get going for the day’, and that we all make him laugh in our own ways. He enjoys our company and to be honest, he confides in us, sharing feelings about his life and his future. It’s a very touching relationship and we are privileged to provide that companionship.”

Another client that Sylvia has supported for some time is Mrs F, who touchingly says that her ‘Home Instead care angels saved her life’. Sylvia understands what her role is for Mrs F and her family, saying “We are on hand where the family are unable to be, because they don’t live close by…”

“We are their eyes and ears and peace of mind really. They know that on a daily basis their loved one has someone familiar to take care of them, and whilst Mrs F is living with Dementia and can’t always recall my name, I’ll arrive and she will say ‘I know you, you make me laugh’ and that’s just a lovely greeting!”

Sylvia says that she knows she and her Care Professional colleagues are doing their utmost to prevent the damage that loneliness can cause physically and mentally and feels that the role of Care Professional can help the family dynamic too. Sylvia refers to one particular client, and the comments from their adult children, “They told me quite plainly that the support that Home Instead give, allows them to continue being ‘children’ to their Mum. I was very touched by that, but it makes complete sense doesn’t it.”

At Home Instead we work wholeheartedly to enable our clients, allowing time to do tasks with them, not just for them. Time also allows us the ability to form relationships, explore the needs and wishes of our clients, and to try to fulfil those.

Through initiatives such as our ‘Out Instead’ project, we work alongside other organisations in the community to share news with regard to suitable events and groups that our Clients may enjoy, and to facilitate socialisation – preventing loneliness.

One wonderful example of this is our Nostalgic Cinema event which we are proud to sponsor in partnership with the team at Dementia Friendly Honiton. Based at the fantastic community venue that is The Beehive in Honiton itself, the cinema pulls attendees from across the local area, providing a calm, welcoming environment for those living with Dementia, their loved ones, and carers – and the public too.

We are also planning projects with a number of other local organisations and businesses, to raise awareness with regards to the issues that matter to the older generation, such as legal matters, scams awareness, nutrition in older age, choosing the right care, and of course dementia awareness and living with Parkinson’s disease, and more via our free, Community Talks.

Home Instead are pleased to be working across our communities with a view to improving the options, experiences and outcomes for our clients. If you would like further information on our ‘Out Instead’ project, take a look at the Local Blogs, News & Events section of our website, HERE.

If you think that yourself or a loved one, friend or neighbour could benefit from our tailor-made care (including Live-In care options), please don’t hesitate. Contact our team on 01395 200600, take a look around our website. or find us on Facebook and discover why we are different.

*Research published in the journal Neurology