Care Providers as Companions: Fighting Isolation and Loneliness

Jul 12, 2017 | Blog

As people age, there is an increased risk of social isolation. Mobility decreases, family and friends move away, impairments to hearing or other senses make social situations more stressful and less attractive. According to the NHS, over two million people over the age of 75 live alone, and more than one million may regularly go a month without speaking to friends or family. These circumstances easily lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, and it is also possible that such feelings can contribute to cognitive decline and increase risk factors relating to the development of dementia.

Among those that are already suffering from dementia, there is an even greater risk of social isolation and depressive symptoms, not least because their condition prevents many of the most straightforward remedies to loneliness. Around 60% of those suffering from dementia are thought to suffer from depression.

When it comes to care homes, there is a Catch-22 in that while homes can provide a more sociable environment for those suffering from dementia, they also remove people from the comfort and familiar settings of home. This has its own knock-on effects, as outlined in a previous blog post, and may additionally make it harder to see partners, family or friends as often as when living at home – it may even mean being separated from loved pets.

Of course, those living alone with either mobility problems or dementia often find it difficult to look after pets properly anyway. One solution from Japan has been technological companionship, in the form of Paro, the robotic seal that responds to its surroundings. It is also obviously important to encourage those at risk of social isolation to stay in touch with loved ones, through communication technologies if necessary. There is, however, no substitute for genuine human interaction, and this is where day-carers can perform a vital role.

The hectic nature of modern life and work mean it is not always possible to visit elderly relatives regularly, however much we may want. With a day-carer, even one visiting for only an hour or two every few days, you can be assured that your loved one is receiving regular companionship. Carers can also facilitate other social interaction, helping with trips out of the house, receiving guests or using telephones or computers to contact friends and family.

There are also befriending services available in some local areas in the UK, pairing those in need up either with other elderly participants in the local area, or with other volunteers. Amongst its many conclusions, an Age UK review noted that there were additional benefits to intergenerational contact in particular.

Of course, many people may require specialist assistance to continue to live independently in any case, and some of the most regular and important social interactions for an elderly person will be with these care providers. At Greenwood Homecare, all of our carers are trained not only to offer expert support, but also to talk and interact with clients as much as possible, in order to build and foster meaningful relationships. In this way, they can supply those at most risk of isolation and loneliness with vital comfort and companionship in old age.

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