Lockdown and Loneliness

Whilst lockdown restrictions are easing for many across the country, those in vulnerable groups are facing even longer living with the same restrictions, in a bid to stay safe. For elderly people, who are at greater risk of coronavirus because of their age, but also because they are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, the need to stay in some form of isolation, is even greater.

Yet the elderly are already vulnerable to loneliness. There are 1.2 million chronically lonely elderly people in the UK. And data reveals that the implication of isolation and lockdown on loneliness across the nation is huge. At the height of the lockdown, 3 April to 3 May, over 30% of UK adults reported that their wellbeing had been negatively impacted by loneliness according to the ONS.

Those of us in care homes are highly aware of the impacts of COVID-19. But we also need to be aware of the less obvious impacts – such as loneliness.

How to prevent loneliness in the elderly at this time

It is reality that for many elderly people the safest place for them to be, at the moment, is apart from other people. For those living independently, this is particularly difficult as they will have even less face-to-face contact than normally. However, the problem does also exist in care homes. Here, visitors have to be restricted. Even where they can safely be allowed again, it is with restrictions such as social distancing and meeting outside.

However, just because it is harder to visit elderly relatives and friends, it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to help prevent and alleviate potential loneliness.

Here are our top recommendations based on what we’ve been doing at our care homes in North Devon and Somerset:

  • Stay in touch: Visits may be more restricted, but that doesn’t mean communication needs to come to an end. Use the telephone, letters and emails. Where possible, use video communication. We have put together a comprehensive guide on how to use video calling with elderly relatives which will help.
  • Visit safely: Consider how you can visit, in person, but safely. For example, you may be able to meet in the garden, at a distance. If your loved one is in a care home, then you need to check with the home what steps they have in place for when visitors can be allowed safely.
  • Let them know you care: A card, bunch of flowers, or delivery of their favourite treat, can really make someone’s day. Gestures don’t need to be grand, but a simple indication that you are thinking of them, can really lift an elderly person’s spirits.
  • Check in with those around them: Speak to the care home staff, or neighbours, and ask if they have any concerns about your relative. Our care home staff are acutely aware that residents are missing their regular visits, and are taking even more steps to engage residents and make them feel cared for.
  • Distraction: Elderly people have a great deal of time on their hands and this can make situations like loneliness feel worse. Make sure your relative has access to activities that will help them fill their time. From puzzles and Sudoku through to painting and reading, think about their pastimes and make sure they have everything they need.

Is now time to get more help?

The coronavirus situation and lockdown may have highlighted to you just how isolated an elderly individual is. It may be time to move your loved one into a care home where they can have regular and safe contact with staff and other residents, reducing loneliness. At our North Devon Care Homes and Somerset care homes we are now able to welcome new residents safely. Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss options. 01769 573166.