Why being alone might be bad for your health
A new guide for local authorities has been published outlining how they can help to overcome what is becoming an epidemic of loneliness among older people. It is now a serious health issue and one which carers need help to address.
According to reports published in The Guardian, being lonely can be worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It increases the risk of premature death by as much as 30% and the chances of developing dementia by as much as 64%. It is also placing a significant strain on public services to combat this.
More than 75% of GPs say they see between one and five lonely people a day, which is causing a problem with appointment times and costing the NHS millions of pounds a year. Now it is time to address the problem head on.
What can carers do?
With the backing of local councils and charities, carers can attack the problem in three ways. Firstly, at a strategic level, then through communities and lastly through one to one care.
By setting up support groups and meetings for lonely people, in the form of coffee mornings or social activities, loneliness can be reduced and the subsequent health problems addressed. Of course, all of this needs funding to be successful.
A friend in need is a friend indeed
Mutual friendship groups are another way to eliminate the problem, with older people providing more companionship for each other. Of course, individual needs differ but there are ways of providing a broad network of care including general and specific services.
This is an integral part of public health, on a par with fire safety services, evac chairs and emergency response healthcare. At a time when public services are stretched, prevention is surely better than cure? By providing carers with the resources to tackle loneliness among the older community, it could free up valuable space within the existing healthcare services.
For older people who may live on their own after losing a partner, having the opportunity to socialize and make new friends could be an invaluable lifeline.