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Carers may be lonely this Christmas

The festive season is upon us; a time when most people are rushing about visiting friends, being invited to family celebrations and attending social events. This is not the picture for everyone however. Many carers lose contact with their relatives, friends and colleagues as they give up more of their previous life to take on the important role of caring. Many carers will find themselves at home during the holiday season, not able to get out due to their caring role, financial situation or own poor health.

ChristmasSceneWe are encouraged by the media to think about older people who are isolated in their own homes at this time, but carers are often forgotten. Carers can be extremely isolated and experience real loneliness. They may well be living with the person they care for: spouse, child, parent, and friend; however their world is often very closed. A significant number of carers, care for someone who has severe communication difficulties, and will not have a meaningful conversation from one day to the next. They may be reluctant to go out to social events, shopping, or even to the local park, fearing the stigma associated with unusual behaviours. Jenny who cares for her husband in the later stages of dementia, said “we had to stop attending the memory café as the dementia progressed….I was in the car with my daughter going to the hospital when I realised it was the first time I had been out of the house in six weeks, I often go days without a conversation.”

Getting out and about together can be a real struggle, even impossible for carers who are elderly or disabled themselves. Gill who is 74 and has her own health conditions, cares for her daughter with Downs Syndrome and dementia, she explained how she is no longer able to push her daughter’s wheelchair any distance and certainly not up hills, leaving them unable to get out without the help of a family member or support worker.

Cuts to social care and transport have led to fewer services for disabled people and their carers, leading to increased isolation. Volunteer befriending services are often overwhelmed by the demand for their service and carers can wait years to be matched with a volunteer.

Loneliness is not only an emotional experience, it is a real health issue. Recent research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to health, comparable to the risk factors associated with smoking, and obesity. It is important that carers stay well, they enable people, who would otherwise struggle, to stay living at home, and saving the country millions of pounds.

So during this holiday season let us think wider about who may be lonely, and isolated in their own home, who may need extra support, not just for a week or two but throughout the whole year.


Louise Marks is Dementia Policy and Development Officer at Carers Trust


 

 

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December 16, 2015 - Posted by | Isolation

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