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Loneliness Matters

December 2, 2022 |

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” ~ Mother Teresa

Feeling lonely isn’t restricted to a certain type of person. It can affect anyone, at any time, and for any number of reasons. It makes you wonder, in this world of social media, around-the-clock connection and enabling technology – why do we feel so lonely at times?

As human beings, we are created as social animals. We seek the company of others and share our lives, experiences and personal stories with them. But social behaviour isn’t static and as we grow older, those aspects of our lives can become limited, influenced by circumstances and events. Interacting with others or making new friends isn’t as easy as before, the impact of losing a partner or friend might cause us to withdraw, or we may just feel there’s no-one left in the world who really knows or understands us.

Sadly, within the care environment, chronic loneliness exists in large numbers. The physiological effects of living in this environment are real and the impact on a person’s mental health can be negative. Studies show that loneliness increases the likelihood of death by 26 percent. COVID-19 had a major impact too, where doors were closed to visitors for long periods of time.

Stored memories can be a trigger for feeling lonely – hearing a certain piece of music, seeing photographs of families, pets or other animals, anything that reminds us of times when we felt a part of something. Celebrations remind us of past events too, such as birthdays and anniversaries, or religious or cultural holidays, like Diwali, Eid or Passover. For some, holidays are the loneliest times of all.

As another festive season approaches and 2022 draws to a close, now is the perfect time to brainstorm ways to support the older people in your care. Are there activities that could help a person to feel included, regain their sense of purpose and feel positive about themselves? Can you support them to find a path back to reconnection with others?

Altura Learning’s course “Loneliness: Alone in a Crowd” is a great starting point for staff to learn about the different types of loneliness and how it differs from solitude and social isolation. We also describe the impacts of loneliness and explore strategies to support individuals affected by loneliness in the care home.

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