It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is loneliness. Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another. We know that loneliness can be both the driver for and a product of poor mental health.

Our society is changing fast. The pandemic has given rise to a sense of loneliness and isolation undermining confidence in daily routines. In recent times, many of us have had far less access to loved ones. Tech is enabling healthcare professionals to see more patients without the need to travel, but on the flip side of the coin, convenience and cost efficiencies are driving more and more activities online.

Recognising loneliness in care home residents

When we talk about loneliness most people picture an elderly person, living on their own in an empty house. However, loneliness isn’t just about being on your own.

Human beings are social creatures and by nature, we long for connection with others. Life can be quite lonely for those who live in care homes, even though they are surrounded by other people. To help combat this we have put together 5 steps that can help care providers combat loneliness within their care setting.

Promote the feeling of community

Caregivers can help residents overcome the feeling of loneliness by arranging group activities, giving them a sense of community. Communal meals are a great way to encourage social interaction during mealtimes and allow residents to interact with others. Doing this will promote a sense of belongingness and help improve the quality of life.

Family and friend’s visits

During the pandemic, isolation targeted us all. However, those who lived within a care setting were hit hardest by the lockdown rules. Two years down the line, we are able to interact with our family and friends again and this is the perfect way to lift the mood of residents. You could invite families to the home for lunches or even hold a garden picnic.

Understanding your residents

It is important to remember that everyone is different. Not everybody is going to enjoy painting and arts and crafts in the same way not everyone will enjoy singing and dancing. Taking the time to understand your resident’s interests, as well as their likes and dislikes, will help you create an array of engaging activities that should hopefully appeal to them.

Learn the signs of loneliness

There can sometimes be a stigma attached to loneliness and people are often reluctant to admit it. Those that are lonely may spend a lot of time alone, be unproductive, are often ill, or get stuck on the negatives of life. Some of the triggers of loneliness may be developing a health condition, experiencing loss or having difficulties with their hearing. Understanding the signs of loneliness is paramount in helping combat it.

Provide person-centered care

Sometimes delivering personal attention to each resident can be difficult, especially if you are still operating on a paper system. Moving into a care home can be daunting and the transition for some can cause a lot of anxiety and disruption. Care home staff can help with this transition, by helping residents feel comfortable and welcome within the home.

Left untended, loneliness can have serious mental and physical consequences. Meaningful communication and regular interaction are key elements to help combat loneliness.