In our questionnaire for carers, many of them, in fact most of them, expressed concern that their elderly parents feel lonely. This concern is often accompanied by a sense of inadequacy, and it’s not unusual to have a bad conscience because you don’t go and see them often enough. This bad conscience and concern also seem to increase with growing geographical distance. Josefin Rosberg, Moxiam, takes a closer look at these issues, and in this article she offers tips from the survey responses on how the situation can be improved.
Loneliness among senior citizens is a growing social problem and a subject that is attracting greater awareness. Surveys conducted by the NHS say that hundreds of thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society in this country, especially those over the age of 75. The problem also increases as people get older, as the friendship group becomes smaller and less mobile.
But how can you help your elderly parent feel less lonely in these circumstances? Josefin highlights a number of things that you can do as a carer to help your parent be and feel less lonely.
1. Keep in regular contact
Making regular contact with your parent is a good way to reduce the parent’s loneliness. This can be anything from regular phone calls, having a video call, texting or sending a traditional letter or postcard. Also lending a hand with services such as ordering food or having some flowers delivered can help the parent feel a greater sense of closeness and less loneliness. Quantity is just as important as quality in physical meetings. As a carer, it can also help if you have a routine for remembering when to phone. For example, you could phone every day on the way to or from work.
2. Draw up a schedule – share the responsibility
Regular contacts are good to reduce the sense of loneliness among the elderly. One tip is to share the responsibility between carers, and agree on who will get in touch and when. This enables you to agree to make contact on certain days of the week or certain times of the day, times when the home care service isn’t there, and so on. Maybe physical meetings could also be scheduled and staggered so that the gaps aren’t too long between visits?
3. Help your parent to get involved in social activities
As a carer, you can help your parent to find social activities with others, even if you’re not personally involved. Many municipalities and associations arrange free meetings for senior citizens and various kinds of activities that might suit your mum or dad. There are sometimes friendship services that can be used. Check out the situation where your parent lives. And maybe sometimes the parent might need a gentle nudge, or two, to encourage them to take new initiatives.
Many municipalities also have preventive activities that you can contact for more information; you can also ask them to contact your parent. Some senior citizens’ meetings/meeting places also have senior ambassadors who can help a parent take that first step. Maybe there are also neighbours with a shared interest who want to take part?
4. Use digital tools
There are a number of digital tools available now that can make it easier for you to keep in touch with your parent and, not least, to reduce your own concerns, even though you’re far apart. Why not enjoy a digital coffee break, a meal or watch a TV programme together?
There are also digital tools such as Moxiam, which can not only help you as a carer to keep an eye on things without violating anyone’s privacy, but also lets you know whether or not it’s a suitable time to phone. You can read more about how Moxiam works here.
5. Encourage movement and exercise
Movement and exercise are good for mental well-being and can reduce a parent’s sense of loneliness. Reminding them and encouraging them to go for a walk or take part in group exercise can create opportunities for contact with other people. Walking together also helps to create space for conversation. It’s important in this context to bear in mind that there might be a need for a little extra encouragement to take new initiatives and find new routines.
These were a few of the tips and ideas that Josefin sorted out from the responses we received from our questionnaire for carers. Some might seem self-evident, while others might offer new ideas and inspiration.
We intend to keep on collecting good tips, so please feel free to get in touch.