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Combatting Loneliness and Isolation in Care Home Residents

It is a sad fact that, for many people, social networks can get smaller following long-term illness, old age or moving into residential care. It is not always that friends and family intentionally withdraw, but that a change in living circumstances can interrupt previous social habits, routines and traditions.

Loneliness and feelings of isolation can not only have a serious impact on people’s emotional wellbeing, but on their physical health too. Often, care home residents miss their old lifestyles and the buzz of feeling part of a wider community. Many report feeling bored or sad that they do not receive many visitors or phone calls from the ‘outside world’. Carers and nurses will do their best to provide company, but can often be called away to other duties.

Physical effects of loneliness and isolation

Such feelings can make people less inclined to stay physically active or keep up with personal grooming and hygiene. They can cause sleep loss due to worrying over being isolated, which has a long-term effect on energy levels, cognitive abilities and the immune system. Other physical effects can include a loss of motivation to eat, drink or sustain a healthy appetite. This can lead to serious nutritional problems, such as weight loss and dehydration. When lonely or isolated people are exposed to company or social entertainment after spending a long time alone, this can make them feel uncomfortable, heighten anxiety and make some more prone to panic attacks.

Feeling lonely in a busy care home

Some might wonder how a person can ever feel lonely in a bustling care home full of other residents, care staff and visitors. However, watching other people interact can be very difficult if you are not part of the group. Moving to a residential care home with unfamiliar settings, furniture, sounds and smells can also be disconcerting. Care staff who are able to spare a few hours to help settle new residents in and then spend some time with them in their first few weeks can make a huge difference.

Using digital care management software like Care Vision to help reduce time spent on admin and management tasks can really help free team members up for this. You could also consider inviting volunteers into the home for the specific purpose of providing company, chat and interaction over tea and cakes or a glass of beer.

Monitoring progress

Care Vision is also highly effective for keeping track of residents’ progress, both physically and mentally. From personal record tools to behaviour monitoring and emotion tracking functions, it is easier than ever before to watch out for concerning signs of loneliness or isolation among care home residents. You can also use Care Vision to track how many visitors residents get, or whether or not they are engaging in social events inside the home, taking part in social activities such as crafts or film nights and signing up for outings and trips away from the building. Don’t forget some residents will be less inclined to talk or will feel unconfident about engaging with others. Care should be taken to find other ways to help them keep loneliness and isolation at bay.

Loneliness-busting ideas

The good news is that there are a wide range of activities and initiatives that can be introduced to a care home quickly and easily to help people feel more connected. Many are free to introduce too, or cost very little. A regular ‘conversation club’ could be introduced for people to join in with – or sit and listen to – a conversation about a chosen theme, or simply a general get-together. Similarly, book and film clubs work well to bring people together and talk about a shared interest. These clubs can be run by staff, volunteers or residents. Another way to forge social connections could include staff and residents carrying out simple activities, tasks and chores together while having a chat. Some ideas for this could include weeding the garden, cooking cakes for afternoon tea, writing letters, emails or greetings cards or even some simple painting, woodwork or DIY. What you do is far less important than how you use it to bring people together and reduce loneliness in the care home community.

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