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Loneliness & Remedies

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Man staring out of window

My Story: Ray

Ray suffered a marriage break up several years ago. He was left living on his own. At the time, his busy working life provided plenty of interaction with work colleagues and a social life outside of work. Then he retired.

Retirement led to loss of purpose, daily interaction with people and a diminished social scene. He had few family relations and those that existed were not close. He had no children and did not have many other social relationships.

A friend introduced him to volunteering with a local community organisation and through this, he gradually built up new friendships. He found that this gave him a new outlook and that one thing led to another through simply talking to people. He became involved in the activities of other groups. He developed his own “community”. He also gained some self-confidence in doing this work which helped a great deal and he didn’t feel quite so lonely anymore. Ray has never looked back.

My Story: Kate

Kate is a retired professional who lives alone in the family home. Unfortunately, she only has one family member, a cousin, still alive. She used to attend church regularly and through this, met people to chat with. She suffered ill health through breast cancer and a heart attack. Her vision and mobility started to deteriorate and over time, Kate found it difficult to get out and about. She started to lose confidence through being isolated caused by her poor health.

Kate’s home is an a state of disrepair but she is reluctant to get tradesmen out, for fear of cost and disturbance, to replace leaking, single glazed windows or to install central heating. Kate doesn’t feel that she has anyone that she could ask to support her with this. She has had one spell in a nursing home for respite and was anxious to get home – despite the relative discomfort of her living situation.

Neighbours and church friends visit and make sure she has enough food. Kate used to phone friends from church for long chats where the conversations were about missing her parents who had died 40 years previously.

Kate is still living independently at home with support but no longer telephones her friends. While neighbours and church folk still look after her and do errands, her isolation and loneliness, when you do speak to her, is palpable.

Group of older people walking

My Story: Margaret

Margaret was a lonely person having lost her husband and four of her children early in life.

During her later years, her health was also very poor. She was registered blind and suffered with severe arthritis. She had very little confidence in herself due to her vision problems and because of this, relied on family members to support her. The family did its best to help but the last 12 months was particularly difficult as Margaret became very frail and was increasingly very frightened of strangers. Margaret’s son-in-law became her carer during the week. Other family members visited on a Saturday to ensure she had food as during the week she ate in the lounge of her sheltered accommodation. They all did their best to support Margaret between work and other commitments. It was painful to watch Margaret deteriorate over time and to listen to her talk about how lonely she was.

Margaret’s quality of life at this later stage was very poor and the family became aware that she had become despondent and that she was struggling to cope with life in general through conversations with her and observations. Margaret sadly passed away after a fall – family felt that the loneliness had had a huge impact on Margaret’s health and wellbeing.

My Story: Caroline

Caroline suffered bereavement and unfortunately, shortly after this, her son also moved out of the family home to build his own life, leaving Caroline with an empty nest and house.

Work continued so she didn’t feel particularly lonely during the week but weekends and bank holidays were lonely times as she didn’t wish to encroach upon other peoples’ family time. Sometimes, she just sat in watching TV for days at a time and eventually she realised that she was starting to feel depressed and lonely.

She went to see her GP who introduced her to a health professional who signposted her to various activities, one of which was jewellery-making, which she enjoyed immensely. After a time, Caroline was encouraged by the health professional to start some volunteering work in the community around cancer awareness. This really helped her to feel better in herself as she was meeting other people whilst providing her with a sense of purpose. Caroline feels that volunteering turned her life around and gave her confidence.

Caroline is still active in her community. She is fully retired now but has so many new friends. Family members joke, “You are never in!”. Occasionally, she still feels lonely but can always find someone to chat to.

This happened over 10 years ago and volunteering is still the best move Caroline ever made.

Group of older ladies

My Story: Doreen

Doreen’s aunt had been happily married for 70 years. Unfortunately, both she and her husband became unwell. In addition, they had carer responsibilities for an adult daughter who was physically and mentally disabled which was added stress. One day, after a fall, Doreen’s aunt had been complaining that she was not feeling well and in pain. Doreen took her aunt to hospital and she was diagnosed with various broken bones in her back which significantly affected her mobility. To make things worse, Doreen’s uncle’s health began to deteriorate around the same time. Doreen had taken her uncle to the GP many times and finally he was admitted into hospital. Sadly, he died soon afterwards, aged 93.

Doreen’s aunt had never been on her own at night all her married life—she felt vulnerable and afraid. She was struggling to move about and because her health was so poor she was effectively housebound with a limited social circle and a daughter to care for. After struggling for some time, she was diagnosed with cancer which was yet another setback. Doreen’s aunt continues to feel incredibly vulnerable and remains afraid at night but is able to manage everyday chores without help. Every day a further maintenance issue arises around the house that she has no help with. These days, when Doreen asks her aunt to go out, she always refuses because she has lost confidence in herself. Doreen is the only person that phones and visits and it is almost as if her aunt has resigned herself to her situation and this makes Doreen feel sad, frustrated and helpless.

My Story: frank

Frank became ill over an extended period of time. He had always been active and because of this illness, he couldn’t take part in the activities that he had been able to in the past – he was even bedridden at times. This led to a cycle of decline and a loss of quality contact with the outside world as well as severe depression because he felt he had nothing to look forward to.

People may have phoned to ask how he was, but they didn’t actually pay a visit. What Frank needed was some human contact. Luckily, because he had been a member of a local parish, a caring vicar got people organised and arranged visits. This had a positive affect on Frank’s mental health and consequently his overall health – all because he felt that people genuinely cared and were interested in him and his wellbeing. The power of human contact and friendship!