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Caring for someone who's lonely

If you look after someone who you think might be suffering from loneliness, take a read through our resources on this page so you can find the best way to help.

How to spot loneliness

There are 1.2m chronically lonely older people in the UK, so it's likely we all know or care about someone who feels lonely. But it's not always easy to spot the signs. Some clues could include the person:

  • having a significant change in their routine (e.g. getting up a lot later)
  • neglecting their appearance or personal hygiene
  • complaining of feeling worthless
  • not eating properly.

You should also consider if the person you care about has had a change in their circumstances that could have caused their loneliness, such as:

  • losing a loved one
  • moving away from friends and family
  • losing the social contact and enjoyment they used to get from work
  • experiencing health problems that make it difficult for them to go out and do the things they enjoy.

As loneliness is such a deeply personal experience, you may spot signs they are lonely before the person you care about does or before they are able to talk about it. It's also important to remember that someone can still feel lonely despite being surrounded by friends and family.

Why it's important to tackle loneliness

No one should feel they have no one to turn to, but we also know loneliness can have a big impact on our mental and physical health.

Over recent years there has been growing public attention to loneliness in our communities and this has been accompanied by a shift in our understanding of its impact.

We now know that, for example, the effect of loneliness and isolation can be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more damaging than obesity.

It is associated with depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened vascular resistance, hypertension, psychological stress and mental health problems.

What you can do to help

If you suspect someone you know may be lonely, you can help by:

Being there. Simply being there for the person can let them know that someone cares. Don't be afraid to ask how they're feeling or if there's anything you can do to help. Having someone who is willing to listen could be a great comfort.

Encourage and support the person to get help. Reassure them that it's possible to feel better with the right help. They may need some support to make new social connections or access services designed to tackle loneliness.

Be patient. When people are lonely, particularly if it's associated with poor mental health or physical health, they may get irritable or feel misunderstood by others. You may need to offer gentle assurance.

Looking after yourself

When you’re caring for someone it’s easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and manage better with your caring role.

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