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Tackling Loneliness in Care Homes

Only recently has loneliness become a major issue that is widely recognised in society, and as something that can have a genuine impact on someone’s physical and mental well-being. Often our perception of loneliness can be limited to people who are living by themselves and don’t regularly interact with others. However, according to research by Professor John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, people who live in large households or care homes experience loneliness much more consistently than those who don’t.

Loneliness is particularly prevalent in care homes, where residents are more than twice as likely to report feeling lonely. A study by the University of Bedfordshire showed that over 80% of older care home residents with mental health problems reported loneliness. This group also believed that if care home staff were able to give them more time and attention, their loneliness would be eased.

Boredom also plays a role in the high loneliness rates in care homes – often residents have left behind an active, independent lifestyle for one where they’re constantly depending on care home staff for stimulation and activity. This sudden change can have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental sharpness and emotional stability.

How Many Elderly People Are Affected By Loneliness?

Loneliness is a problem which affects people of all ages, but it is particularly endemic among older people. Eye-opening figures released by Age UK show that roughly 200,000 over the age of 65 have gone at least a month since their last conversation with a friend or family member. In the same age bracket, 3.9 million people’s primary source of interaction is their television, whilst in care homes, a remarkable 60 percent of residents get no visitors.

Figures from Age UK show that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month, and for 3.9 million older people the TV is their main company. On top of this, a shocking 60 percent of people in care homes get no visitors.

What Is The Effect Of Loneliness?

According to Age UK, 1.4 million older people in the UK experience loneliness often. It’s clearly a widespread problem, but what effects can it have on an individual?

One of the physical and mental effects of loneliness is that it can significantly impact on a person’s sleep, resulting in it being less restorative. This can lead to psychological problems for the individual, making them less comfortable in social situations and heightening their anxiety levels. A lack of sleep and an increase in time spent alone has also been linked to depression.

Research has also explored the link between feelings of loneliness and the development of dementia. The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that loneliness is a serious public health risk that puts a significant number of people at risk for dementia.

There is also significant evidence linking loneliness to a higher risk of other physical and mental conditions, such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

What Is The Relationship Between Loneliness & Care Homes?

One of the key factors contributing to feelings of loneliness is a separation from the familiar. To suddenly go from living in the home that you love to being in a completely new place, with none of your old furniture or furnishings, can lead to a sense of listlessness and identity loss. This sensation can be heightened by not seeing the people you’re used to seeing, having a complete change in your everyday activities, and missing the familiar sights and smells of your normal community.

Care home residents also find themselves feeling lonely when their nurses or carers are overworked and don’t have time to spend simply providing them with companionship. Even a small amount of occasional small talk can make a huge difference to someone feeing starved of attention, but care home workers often work to tight schedules and simply have too much to do in too little time.

Conversely, other residents who are more introverted might intentionally not socialise with anyone. In these instances, it’s very difficult to assess how much social interaction a resident is getting. With a comprehensive, structured home care plan, your loved one’s behaviour and symptoms can be evaluated over time and their physical and mental condition can be closely monitored.

How Can Live-in Care Prevent The Loneliness Of Residential Care?

Live-in care is an increasingly popular alternative to residential care. It involves remaining at home and having an expert carer come to live with you, providing you with around-the-clock support and companionship. People who engage in regular productive activities with others tend to enjoy a longer, happier life, filled with purpose and enhanced cognitive functions.

With a live-in carer from Helping Hands, you’ll always have one-to-one care at home from a compassionate, expert carer who has been matched to your personality and interests. Our live-in carers will make sure you’re fully supported at all times, offering meaningful and stimulating companionship whilst also respecting your personal space and privacy.