Tackling loneliness among the elderly

Even when they are living in the community, loneliness can be a problem for elderly people, especially if they become less mobile and are unable to get out of their homes so often.

The social distancing and self-isolation measures introduced to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, only add to the problem as friends and family can no longer visit to check that they are all right.

But there are ways to prevent them from feeling completely isolated and cut off and sinking into a depression.

A telephone call, or a chat using social media, can help. Even a neighbour dropping a postcard through the letterbox to ensure someone is in their thoughts would help.

It is important to encourage an elderly person to talk about their feelings and anxieties rather than keeping it all bottled up.

Encourage them to keep to a routine and to eat regularly as well.

Even if they are in residential care homes, the elderly can feel isolated and bereft, especially if the home has had to discourage or ban visitors because of the pandemic.

Gentle exercise, where physically possible, such as a walk around the grounds can help, as can staff taking the time to chat with a resident. If not, chair aerobics, yoga or other gentle exercise can help.

Also, if the home offers art, cooking, musical and other activities, such as caring for plants or pets in the care home, this will also help to stimulate elderly residents and keep them engaged and less likely to fall prey to depression and loneliness.

Where possible, if a phone or skype conversation can be arranged with relatives, this will keep the link with family whom they cannot see for the time being.

While protecting elderly residents from the risks of ill health has to be paramount, there is plenty that can be done within the care home setting to ensure their mental health and wellbeing.