Isolation and loneliness are considered to be two of the greatest concerns around care hom admission. Even outside of care homes, over 1 million older people have reported feeling lonely either all the time or often, with 41% feeling out of touch with the pace of modern life. For those in care homes, the fear of being isolated from family and the community further can often be a deciding factor when making the final decision but care homes in Kent, London, and across the UK are working to change this. In fact, residential homes can help to reduce loneliness and here, we’re investigating how they’re working to overcome social isolation in their residents.
What Are The Consequences Of Isolation?
As humans, we all have a fundamental need to interact with and be close to other human beings and for this reason, isolation can actually cause significant damage to our health. In older people, a lack of social interaction on a long-term basis can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes, with mental and physical issues sprouting as a result of the loneliness – this is all down to a stress response. Isolation can effectively cause a form of stress, which weakens the immune system and causes difficulty sleeping. This can ultimately lead to heightened feelings of anxiety and double risks of Dementia.
In those who already need support and care in their daily life, this additional strain on their health can, as you might expect, have adverse effects. For this reason, care home providers are required to provide protection against social isolation as stated in the Care Quality Commissioner’s (CPC) Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs).
How Are They Tackling This?
Due to these kinds of requirements, more and more care providers are introducing regular activity schedules, as well as support in pursuing activities and interests that they had prior to entering the home. Some of the key ways that care homes are doing this include:
Getting the community involved in local care home activities has proven to be a great way of not only encouraging socialisation between adults of the same age but of residents and other age groups in the local area. There have been records of children’s groups going to sing at care homes, talk to them and, as the recent show Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds has shown, play and interact in new ways that can enrich both age groups. Outside of this, other community groups can hold events, care homes can host days out and trips to particular attractions or events, or even host their own events for the community. Getting residents involved in setting up the events, whether through cooking, helping with laundry or any other activity they want to get involved with, can give them a sense of purpose and drive to socialise.
While it might seem like a simple thing, encouraging community mealtimes can be a great way to get residents talking to one another. While the option to eat in their room should still be given for days where they may want peace and quiet, encouraging them to join a communal area to eat can encourage them to socialise at least three times a day not only with staff and other residents but with any guests that have stopped by to visit.
The inclusion of a daily activity schedule has become commonplace and in some care homes, these schedules are considerably in-depth. Whether there’s a host of activities going on at once, or just one activity every few hours, or even per day, providing residents with something to do within the community of the home, as well as with any visitors, can drastically reduce loneliness.
Loneliness and isolation are issues that need to be tackled in the older generations, and care homes are already doing their part to do precisely that. While there’s some way to go, these are certainly strong first steps for the care community.