Age UK has recently produced a study regarding loneliness in later life, which has highlighted how serious the loneliness crisis in the UK has become. The study showed that 1 million elderly people in the UK often or always feel lonely, with nearly half of over 65’s saying that the television or their pets are their closest companions.
A concerning statistic from this research is the fact that loneliness can have an impact on health. Researchers have found that being lonely can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; then there’s the fact that people who are extremely lonely have double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The fact is that loneliness is a major problem for older people and can have a significant impact on their health, happiness and quality of life, which is why tackling loneliness is so essential. One option for helping to alleviate loneliness with older people is either choosing to employ a 24-hour live-in carer or moving the person to a residential care home. The question is, of course, which is best?
Residential care homes can offer good quality care; however, they can lack that personal feel. Residents are part of a community, which can be nice, but it doesn’t always mean that they feel comfortable or happy there. Not everyone is content living in this kind of group environment; many older people prefer to be in their own homes and can feel more lonely in care environments than they do at home.
In residential care homes, the carers are always changing, which can make it difficult for residents to form attachments to them. Family and friends can visit but seldom frequently, which can again make loneliness worse.
On the other hand, 24-hour live-in care offers older people the chance to continue living in their own homes – an environment where they feel, comfortable, safe and in control – with one carer staying with them 24-hours a day. This kind of approach can be a better option, as it can allow older people to remain in their homes, with their own things around them, without living alone.
Carers can offer companionship to people living alone, as well as providing them with care and helping to ensure that they remain safe. When an older person sees the same carer on a constant basis, they start to build bonds with them and friendships are born. It’s this closeness between live-in carers and elderly people that can help to tackle loneliness and prevent the array of problems associated with it.
When deciding between residential care and hiring a 24-hour carer, it’s important to consider what would make the person more comfortable. In most cases, live-in care is the answer to this.