Five ways you can help prevent loneliness this Christmas
Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Raising Awareness
It will come as little surprise that loneliness and poor health often go hand-in-hand.
Research has now provided evidence demonstrating this correlation, highlighting the shocking increasing trend of loneliness in the UK, particularly within the elderly.
Not only is this an uncomfortable trend to accept, its correlation with poor health is having many implications on the healthcare industry.
First and foremost, it means hospitals are under pressure. The NHS is already under immense strain, but with more and more elderly people admitted daily due to loneliness induced health concerns, the service is at risk of being crippled.
Following on from their stay in hospital, it is common for lonely and ill patients to require post-hospital care as well. These services are also struggling to sustain themselves though, as the increase in demand is so high. As a result, patients have to wait longer before they’re discharged whilst they wait for sufficient post-hospital care to be arranged, meaning hospitals suffer further strain due to a lower bed turnover rate.
There is also evidence that suggests loneliness is worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can even increase the chance of developing dementia by 64% - yet more impact on the strained NHS, this time within the mental health services.
Loneliness is a relatively easily avoidable problem though. It doesn’t require medicine, surgery or any kind of medical attention if tackled from the get-go. All an individual needs to avoid entering the grip of loneliness is company; a day out, a quick chat or even a cup of tea. It doesn’t have to cost money and it doesn’t need a highly trained consultant, so anybody can help reduce it. So much so, here are our top five ways you can help reduce the increasing loneliness epidemic over the Christmas period:
1) Say hello or Merry Chritmas – It may sound simple, but a “good morning” from over the road or a pop-round in the evening for a five minute catch-up can make a huge difference to a potentially-lonely individual. We have all been bored at some point and wanted to see friends or find something to do to keep ourselves entertained. Well, this feeling isn’t dissimilar from that of a lonely person’s feelings – the only difference is, they have no one to turn to in order to change their feelings or keep themselves occupied.
2) Offer them a hand – Loneliness is particularly rife amongst the elderly. Many of which, through age and other health factors, often need a hand with everyday jobs and activities – from hanging a picture on the wall to putting up some Christmas decorations for them. Asking if they need a hand with anything like this is not only useful to them, is also vital contact and company that can keep them from feeling lonely.
3) Invite them over for dinner – Whether it’s a neighbour, a friend or even a relative, inviting them round for Christmas dinner, or even a light lunch, might be an evening or afternoon out which they haven’t done for a considerable time. To you or I, this would seem like a tiny blip in our weekly schedule, but for someone suffering from loneliness, it could be the biggest event of their week and something for them to look forward to.
4) Volunteer your time – There are many volunteer schemes that help the vulnerable, lonely and elderly. You can become a telephone buddy, a courtesy driver or even organise local coffee mornings in the village hall. All of these provide company for those who need it, but the idea of someone organising an event for them can make them feel wanted and appreciated as well.
5) Become a carer – There is no reason why helping the lonely cannot become part of your working life too. With a small amount of training you could be working as a care worker in your local community, spending time and sharing a cup of tea with the most vulnerable and often loneliest citizens in your area. Maybe you have recently retired and are looking for local, part-time work to keep you active and give something back to the community – you may be surprised at how accessible care work is for you. Often care workers from an older generation prove to be some of the best, most engaged carers in the field.
All of these ideas may only take a few minutes or hours from your day-to-day life, but can enrich others’ lives more than any amount of time or money could. You may also be surprised at how fulfilling and interesting you could find the company of your elderly neighbour or lady you drive to hospital every Tuesday.