staff at a summer event

How care homes can be the solution to isolation and loneliness

The last 20 months have truly highlighted the detrimental effects that isolation and loneliness can have on the elderly. Figures show that 1.4 million people in the UK, aged 55 or older, experience loneliness, with almost 500,000 going five or six days without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.

A professional care setting, such as a care home, recognises the differences between loneliness and isolation. It is possible to be surrounded by people and yet feel lonely just as it is possible to be isolated but not feel alone. Elderly care can bring welcome relief to both loneliness and isolation.

The causes of loneliness in the elderly

For those who are not receiving residential, respite, or nursing care, numerous factors lead to the experience of loneliness. Modern life sees families less likely to remain in one place for their working lives and so it is common for elderly relatives to see their family being spread across the UK and beyond. Other events that result in loneliness include:

  • Retirement and losing touch with work colleagues
  • The passing away of a spouse
  • The death of close friends
  • A lack of mobility that prevents trips out

With the loss of those that are close, it is easy for people to find that their grief and bereavement leaves them not wanting to socialise. By the time people have been through the grieving process, it is easy to suddenly find that they are alone.

The impact of loneliness

When facing loneliness, there is an impact on both the physical and mental health of the elderly. Reports show that an elderly person living alone is 50% more likely to visit A&E and far more likely to need to visit their GP. Some of the health issues triggered by loneliness include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Dementia

Regardless of age, loneliness has been shown to have numerous detrimental effects on mental health. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep problems
  • Increased levels of stress

How care homes can help

A care home, such as Oakwood House, is able to help those who are experiencing loneliness and isolation by engaging with residents on a regular basis. This may be through the care and assistance they require, but also via a range of activities and events with other residents.

Trained, experienced, and caring staff are aware of the physical and social needs of a resident, often more so than the individual, and so are there to promote companionship and stimulation. These needs can be catered for by providing:

A community feel

 A care home is able to develop a sense of community and belonging. Residents can, of course, take time out to themselves, but there is also the opportunity to become part of a caring community. This is something that trained staff will always encourage. Relationships are formed between residents and staff that all add to the community feel.

Activities and events

 A care home such as Oakwood House ensures that there are numerous activities and events to keep residents entertained. Learning a new skill, or revisiting an old hobby, can be a great boost in terms of mental and physical wellbeing.

Family visits

 Care homes understand the importance of being able to see family. Although residents go on to form meaningful friendships, family visits are always encouraged too. This is of benefit to the residents, but also brings peace of mind to family members who can see the lifestyle that their loved ones have.

 

 

 

 


Coming out of the pandemic – how have care homes adapted to the ‘new normal’?

The care home sector was presented with an unprecedented challenge when COVID-19 hit in February 2020. As part of the wider national lockdown, all care homes had to close their doors to external visitors as well as rapidly evolving their internal hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. Over a year later, as the vaccination programme continues to roll out at pace across the UK, and life begins to return to some form of normal, care homes across the country are opening their doors again to facilitate visits from family and friends - something which many of their residents have sorely missed - as well as welcoming new residents into their communities. But with the pandemic still a present challenge, how have care homes like Oakwood House in Norwich adapted to the ‘new normal’ and what procedures are in place to keep residents, staff and visitors safe?

Ongoing use of PPE

Along with increased cleaning and hygiene measures, the ongoing use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has become an essential part of life for care homes in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and one of the main ways that care homes have had to adapt. Full PPE - including gloves, visors, face masks and aprons - is provided for all care workers, and all visitors are required to wear a face mask and use a hand sanitiser before entering the home. The use of PPE is likely to be something that continues to be used for the foreseeable future, so the team at Oakwood House have ensured that they have a plentiful supply that is regularly replenished.

Swift vaccination uptake

Care home residents were one of the first groups to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when the vaccination programme began in January ’21. Care homes acted swiftly to facilitate the uptake of the vaccine, meaning that the majority of care home residents had received both vaccinations by March, and are fully prepared for additional boosters planned for later in the year. Care home staff have also been offered the vaccine, adding an extra level of protection for residents and peace of mind for their families.

Keeping the lines of communication open

In line with the latest government guidance, care homes are now able to allow relatives to visit their loved ones via in-room visits with up to five named visitors being allowed per resident (no more than two at a time), as well as external visits with those same five visitors also being permitted. However, many care homes have introduced different ways that residents can keep in touch with their friends and family - either via offering different methods of visitation or other forms of communication. Oakwood House has established several COVID safe family meeting rooms as well as socially distanced outdoor meeting spaces, and digital communication methods - such as video calls - are also still very much on the agenda should physical visits not be possible.

Robust infection control measures

Infection control strategies have always been present in care homes, however, the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that hygiene and cleaning practices had to be intensified which required all care home staff to receive training to ensure they could carry out these stringent procedures. As part of current infection control measures, care homes regularly test all staff and residents for COVID-19 in line with the government guidelines and also ask that visitors take a lateral flow test prior to entering the home. The combination of regular testing, robust hygiene practices and the use of PPE - including screens where required - has allowed care homes to reintroduce services, which were previously prohibited during lockdown, such as hairdressers, chiropodists and external entertainers. Some homes - such as Oakwood House - continued to provide these services throughout the various lockdowns, but at the peak of the restrictions, they were conducted by staff.

New introductions

As part of their infection control measures, care homes have also had to adapt how they welcome new residents, with many homes implementing a form of quarantine to keep existing residents safe. At Oakwood House, new residents spend the first 10 days in a safe quarantine area within the home (receiving all the care they need from the friendly care staff) before being tested for COVID-19 and then moving into the main home.

Looking ahead to the ‘new normal’

As we’ve seen, care homes have had to implement many changes across their services in order to adapt to a post-COVID world. However, with lockdown restrictions set to lift further on 21st June, the outlook for care homes is looking bright. Although the wearing of facemasks and regular testing may continue to be part of life for the foreseeable future, the ‘new normal’ will bring lots of benefits for care home residents and their relatives. Family visits will become easier and more frequent, and residents can continue to enjoy their regular activities whilst catching up with their friends within the community (as well as staff), offering lots of opportunities for social interaction. Meaning that the care homes’ social and events calendar will once again be full to the brim of activities and celebrations to keep residents active, content and safe.

Sources: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visiting-care-homes-during-coronavirus/update-on-policies-for-visiting-arrangements-in-care-homes


Why care homes are the solution to tackling isolation and loneliness in elderly people.

Feeling lonely is something we all experience from time to time and for many different reasons, but long-term loneliness can have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental and physical health – particularly in an older person who lives on their own. According to a recent study by Which.co.uk, 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 said they either always or often felt lonely, and research has shown that loneliness can lead to an increased risk of someone developing coronary heart disease, strokes and dementia, as well as links to causing anxiety and depression.

With this in mind, it’s important to be able to identify the signs that suggest an elderly relative might be lonely and find a solution. Loneliness can be tricky to spot as it is a subjective experience, however common symptoms are withdrawing from family and friends, low self-esteem, boredom and low mood. A person’s circumstances can also lead them to feel lonely - such as being recently widowed or having a long-term health issue. Moving into a care home environment offers a practical solution for older people who might be feeling lonely or isolated where they live. There are many benefits for making the move into care which help alleviate loneliness, as well as improve a person’s quality of life and general wellbeing. Some of these benefits are outlined below:

Community

Connecting with others - whether it’s with friends, family or forming new connections with people who have similar interests - is a great way to combat loneliness and banish isolation. Being part of a care home community offers multiple opportunities for people to maintain social interactions with a whole host of different people. Even if it’s just saying “good morning” to someone; these small interactions make all the difference and can help people feel more connected to where they live.

Keeping active

Staying active and keeping busy benefit both a person’s physical and mental health, as well as being a great way to connect with others. Many care homes encourage their residents to continue with their favoured hobbies and pastimes as well as taking up something new, so it’s a priority for the activity coordinators at each care home to ensure that there are plenty of engaging activities available and something for everyone. Themed days (such as Australia day / VE day), quizzes, live music and entertainment, games, darts, skittles, arts and crafts and exercise classes are just some of the activities available to residents at Oakwood House in Norwich.

Highly trained and caring staff

Whether it’s nursing, residential or respite care that’s required, care home staff are highly trained care professionals, so in addition to forming strong relationships with the residents in their care (and therefore always being happy to have a chat over a cuppa!), they will also be quick to spot any subtle changes in a resident’s behaviour that might suggest they are feeling lonely or ‘not quite right.’ Noticing these signs early means that necessary changes can be made to a resident’s care to maximise their happiness, safety and wellbeing.

Outside space

Getting outside in the fresh air is a great way to refresh a person’s mood and also strengthens our feeling of connection to nature and the wider world. Research has shown that this promotes physical and mental wellbeing in older people, so it’s an important factor in tackling loneliness. Care homes have safe outside spaces and attractive surroundings, with many having well-appointed gardens for residents to relax in. Whether it’s a stroll around the grounds or perhaps a leisurely walk around the peaceful village of Colney, Oakwood House offers lots of opportunities for residents to get outdoors and feel the wind on their face!

A positive approach

Taking a positive outlook on life - along with eating well, staying active and getting enough sleep – is another factor that can improve a person’s overall health and wellbeing, whilst also helping to keep loneliness at bay. Care homes recognise the importance of the power of positivity in relation to combatting loneliness and therefore they strive to create positive home-from-home environments for all of their residents, as well as ensuring that they eat well and get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t worry about your loved one being alone. Friendship, care and interaction are at the heart of what we do here at Oakwood House. Please contact our team on 01603 250 101 to arrange a viewing.

Sources:

Campaign to End Loneliness: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org Psychology of Loneliness Report (Campaign to End Loneliness) https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/the-psychology-of-loneliness-why-it-matters-and-what-we-can-do/