Opinion Wellbeing

Preventing loneliness – The role of Activity and engagement

Hilary Woodhead, Executive Director, NAPA

Preventing loneliness in people who live in care homes is just as important as providing personal care and support.  We know that care homes are usually busy places and we can easily forget that the hustle and bustle isn’t always engaging.  Being surrounded by others doesn’t necessarily mean that people are less likely to be lonely. We must remember that it is the connections that need to be meaningful.

So why are people lonely when we are trying so hard to ensure we provide activity and engagement?

  • It is important to emphasise that sometimes people feel lonely under what appears to be positive circumstances and this is because connections with those around them need to be meaningful
  • Feelings of loneliness are personal and everyone’s experience will be different – an activity that engages the majority of the people we support might exacerbates feelings of loss and isolation in others
  • Loneliness is not always the same as being alone – Sometimes people can feel lonely in a room full of people
  • Loneliness can be related to the absence of a significant person, animal, place or object that provides connection and affirms a sense of value

Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic NAPA have seen a number of creative approaches and examples of outstanding leadership, over the last 15 months or so, in relation to the provision of activity and engagement and particularly in relation to preventing and tackling loneliness.

Since the beginning of the pandemic NAPA has provided a free confidential helpline service for activity and care teams and family carers. This has included reflective practice sessions for staff, a free phone line to discuss areas of concern and an online support group where professionals can share their challenges and expertise, offering emotional support and practical ideas to support resident wellbeing.

Our ‘Isolated but not lonely network’ project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund brought Activity Providers together virtually from all over the country during lockdown, to share their experiences, successes and to seek support.

Here are some of the examples network participants reported in their attempts to prevent and tackle loneliness:

  • Listening and acknowledging the loneliness the person is experiencing
  • Asking if there is anything we could do to help
  • Getting to know each other and building rapport – the NAPA Life Story template can be a great place to start – Click here, but relationships take time and we are all ever evolving
  • Saying goodbye to those we have lost – Provide opportunities to remember and connect with the losses many of us have experienced – this resource may be helpful – Click here
  • Getting creative with tech – Support contact with family and friends – Ask families and friends if one person can call or ‘visit’ every day. Encourage letters and emails and art in the post. For more information, click here
  • Contacting wider networks or exploring volunteer companions for those who are ageing without children more information here or consider NAPA’s Only Connect programme.
  • Linking with previous networks and form new connections in the local community e.g. religious groups, schools, supermarkets, special interest groups etc
  • Encouraging new hobbies or interests
  • Introducing people with shared interests to one another
  • Inviting people to share their experience, expertise and opinions
  • Providing opportunities for connection over a 24-hour period, sometimes people can feel particularly lonely at night
  • Supporting face to face meetings with friends and family, where possible
  • Working with family and team members to provide a box of useful activity supplies/prompts

Preventing and tackling loneliness isn’t just about providing things for people to do, it is about providing meaningful connection that is personalised and demonstrates to the person that they matter.

Visit the NAPA website for free resources, browse our NEW NAPA Calendar – An activity for every day of the Year, contact the NAPA Helpline on 08001585503 or email helpline@napa-activities.co.uk for free support and information.

To become a NAPA member and receive a comprehensive benefits package email membership@napa-activities.co.uk of complete the form here – quote ‘Care Talk Offer’ for a waived application fee for new members.

hilary@napa-activities.co.uk

@HilaryWoodhead

 

 

 

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