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More care needed for elderly suffering with chronic loneliness

More care needed for elderly suffering with chronic loneliness
21st March 2016

New research has highlighted the importance of engaging with elderly people and ensuring they get the right level of care and support they need.

The report, published by Age UK, found that hundreds of older people are facing a "double whammy" of problems, having to deal with chronic loneliness and cope with unmet care needs.

Having access to a range of services, whether in a care home or elsewhere in the community, can be an essential part of ensuring that elderly people can live fulfilling and engaging lives.

Services that specialise in elderly care can make sure that older people are having their mental and physical health needs met, while also engaging with them to limit any feelings of loneliness they may be experiencing.

The research from Age UK found that people who have care needs that aren't receiving any help are nearly two-thirds more likely to have experienced feelings of loneliness in the past week than someone who is getting some level of care or support.

Charity director of Age UK Caroline Abrahams said: "It’s bad enough to be struggling because of a care need and going without any support, but now it turns out that an appreciable number of older people in this position are facing a “double whammy” because they are chronically lonely too."

She said it is more likely that many of these older people are living on their own and in quite isolating circumstances, unable to call on family, friends or neighbours for help if they need it.

Ms Abrahams explained that the "overriding purpose" of social care is to meet a person's needs but for older people - who don't always have the opportunity or ability to get out of the house - this care can be "extraordinarily precious" as it could be the only conversation they'll have all day.

However, she said the system was struggling to keep pace with the growing number of older people, leading to many going without any sort of formal help. The research shows that this is contributing to the significant problem of acute loneliness among older people too.

According to the analysis, more than 300,000 older people across the country are struggling with loneliness and the added pressure of having care needs that are not being met.

Research has shown that loneliness itself can have a significant impact on a person's wellbeing and health, making them more susceptible to illness. This is why tackling the problem would not only improve the quality of life for elderly people but also reduce the financial impact on the healthcare system.

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