This week The Helen Clark Foundation released a report on “Solving for loneliness”. Research and insights have come from the significant challenges of COVID-19 and how loneliness can have a negative impact on us emotionally, socially and physically.
As human beings we’re hard wired for connection. At some point in our lives we’ve all been able to relate to feelings of loneliness, which is not the same as being alone. Many people can describe being surrounded by people and still feeling lonely.
Loneliness is a feeling we hear about from many carers supporting a person with dementia. Close friends you’ve had for years that have been there through ups and downs don’t know what to say, don’t know how to engage with the person who has dementia so they tend to keep their distance. It may be that they stop seeing you as an individual person and friend and only ever ask you about how the person with dementia is or they feel sorry for you because of what you’re going through. Losing our identity, the things that make us who we are to take on the identity of “CARER” can be a lonely experience.
It’s tempting when you are feeling physically and emotionally exhausted to just retreat to your safe place, a jigsaw puzzle, a nice glass of red or Netflix and a big bowl of popcorn.
But when we experience loneliness long term there is evidence of negative health and well-being outcomes; cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia and hormone imbalances. The report states “there is clear links between self-reported loneliness and shortened life expectancy”.
Remember a little goes a long way, small interactions add up:
- Talk to the barista making your coffee.
- Say hi to the neighbour when you get your mail.
- Attend a socialisation or support group even if it’s just to take a walk.
- Smile at someone you don’t know.
- Find that one person you can download to and talk about how you’re feeling knowing they will understand.
- Create meaningful interactions outside of your care relationship with your person, loneliness often comes from a deep need for meaningful connection which can be difficult when you’re unable to get this from your relationship as it once was.
It’s important for us to reinforce that you’re not alone and you don’t have to travel this road alone, Dementia Auckland is here for you and we will continue to walk beside you. Be kind to yourself and remember to reach out when you need support.