It’s sad but true that the older you get, the more likely you are to experience loneliness. If you’re also dealing with dementia, the burden of loneliness increases even more. And it isn’t only people living with the condition who feel lonely, family carers and other loved ones often feel the same. During the festive season, loneliness often intensifies, leaving everyone affected feeling utterly miserable.

Did you know?
Loneliness was described as a ‘social epidemic’ in a new report. The report reveals that nine million adults in the UK admit to being lonely, and that loneliness has a ‘profoundly damaging’ impact on their health, similar to the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Source: Jo Cox Commission

Did you know?
There are 4 key elements to loneliness in older age
1-Feeling lack of companionship
2-Feeling left out
3-Feeling isolated from others
4-Feeling out of tune with people.
Source: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

Why you might be feeling lonely at Christmas

You’ve lost your best friend
For many family carers, this is perhaps the most painful reason for their loneliness. If your life partner has dementia and is no longer able to chat to you in the same way, and you are no longer able to confide in them in the same way, the loneliness can seem overwhelming. When you recall previous Christmases, and how different they used to be, the feeling of loss can seem overwhelming.

You are on your own
If the person you love has recently moved into a care home, this could be the first Christmas in a long time that you really are on your own. If they’re still living with you, you may find yourself with few visitors at Christmas; friends and family either staying away completely or dropping in for very short periods of time. Whilst those living with dementia might prefer it this way, their partner or family carer could find it very isolating. …

Other people don’t understand
Even if your family and friends make an effort to include you, you might still feel lonely. Dementia can be a very isolating experience that other people – even those with the best of intentions – don’t really understand unless they take the time to really listen. So, if you’re surrounded by people who think it’s best to simply ignore it, (in case they ‘upset you’) you might find yourself feeling very lonely.

If any of the above sounds familiar, here’s what you can do to help yourself or someone you’re worried about

Be honest
There’s no shame in admitting you feel lonely. If you’ve been putting on a brave face, Christmas could be the perfect time to come clean and tell the people you love how you really feel.

Ask for help
If you don’t have anyone to confide in, there are lots of helplines you can call if you just need to talk. Silverline has a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people open 24 hours a day. Call 0800 470 8090. You could also try the Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline 0300 222 1122.

Be kind to yourself
Try to make time for things you enjoy, going for a coffee with a friend or for a short walk. Find a local carers group or an online group so you can talk to people who have faced similar situations. Try Dementia Carers Support Group UK .

Worried that someone you love might be lonely4 ways to help

Phone
Don’t underestimate the value of a simple, every day conversation, it could make the person you care about feel they haven’t been forgotten

Visit
Don’t be afraid to take children. Older people, including those with dementia, generally love to spend time with children. In fact, a recent report found that intergenerational contact is one of the most effective ways of combating loneliness in the elderly.

Befriend
Phone calls and visits offer a short-term fix for loneliness, for something more far reaching, consider befriending schemes, such as those run by the Alzheimer’s Society or Age UK.

Connect
Music can be a very powerful way to boost mood and connect with someone who has dementia. Latest research also suggests that music doesn’t only bring back happy memories, it might help to improve cognitionOne of the simplest way for a person with dementia to access music and conversation is by listening to a radio, especially one they can operate themselves. Go here to find out about The One Button Radio, now back in stock.

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Did you know?
Radio listening has a mood enhancing effect. A study found that people who listen to the radio were happier and had more energy than those who didn’t.
Source: The Media And The Mood Of The Nation

Want to read more on this subject? Here’s 3 more articles you might find interesting

You’ve got a friend! Dementia befriending schemes and support groups

Only the lonely: Dealing with loneliness and isolation in dementia

Feeling connected and engaged with dementia