We live in a technology-driven world. In most circumstances this technology is a support line, delivering a positive change and aiding research, science and healthcare to name but a few. It is however, responsible for a culture change in the way we communicate with each other. Social media, messenger platforms and e-mails have removed an element of human interaction and it has become more convenient to text than to talk face-to-face.
The loss of human interaction
As we get older, weaker and start to lose contact with those that are close to us, we depend more on social interaction to prevent loneliness.
According to Age UK, there is currently 3.6 million older people living alone in the UK, of whom, over 2 million are aged 75+. Another statistic highlights that 1.9 million older people often feel ignored or invisible. (1)
When was the last time you took the time to visit a friend or relative to have a conversation with them, especially those that are older? We so often turn to those that are closest to us when we are feeling low, want to express happiness or source advice, but imagine if you didn’t have anyone around you to share those feelings with.
The impact of loneliness
Loneliness is claimed to be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A major factor in alcohol abuse, it is said to be worse than obesity and physical inactivity (2). It has also been found that loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 14%. (3)
Feeling lonely can also impact your mental health, leading to high levels of stress, lower self-esteem, sleep problems, anxiety and depression. (4)
With two fifths of older people claiming their main form of company is the television, a shocking 45% of people over the age of 75 are admitted to A&E because they are lonely and isolated.(1) Around two and a half million socially isolated older people don’t know where to get help. (2)
How a homecare worker can prevent loneliness
We actively encourage all of our homecare workers to interact with their service user during a visit. Although it is a requirement of the role - to ask questions, understand how they’re feeling and talk them through what care and support they’re providing - this vital human interaction is also about building a professional relationship that helps to stave off loneliness.
Helen, a homecare worker of five years said “I remember a service user defined ‘loneliness’ as a disease. This, I thought, was a very powerful definition. I asked the service user if she would like to expand on her thoughts. She was very clear and assertive with her explanation. I remember her saying “It creeps up on you. You can be unaware that you’re lonely...and then it’s too late”. I’ll never forget her answer."
“She went on to say that when you still have your independence, and are still connected with the community, loneliness may already be there. You just don’t listen to it or see any clues.”
By talking to service users about their interests, how their day is going or anything within the news, a homecare worker can make them feel safe and secure, but it can also encourage some wonderful friendships. We find that in so many cases, a homecare worker will be the only human contact a service user has, so having a chat could be the highlight of their day.
Sources: (1) Age UK, (2) Campaign to End Loneliness, (3) The Telegraph, (4) MIND
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