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Caring for someone who's lonely

If you look after someone who you think might be struggling with feelings of loneliness, let us help you find the best way to support them.


Why might someone be feeling lonely?

There are many reasons why someone might be feeling lonely. Or that might be no clear reason for why they’re feeling the way they are. A change in their circumstances is likely to cause feelings of 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.

Or there may not be a reason at all. Someone can still feel lonely despite being surrounded by friends and family.


How can you tell if someone is feeling lonely?

It can be really difficult for anyone to admit they’re feeling lonely and it can be even harder to ask for help. Pride and independence are important for a lot of us, but these things can feel even more important as we get older. We all go through ups and downs, which can make it difficult to spot a longer-term problem. But there are some clues that could indicate a person is feeling lonely, these include someone:

  • having a significant change in their routine (e.g. getting up a lot later)
  • neglecting their appearance or personal hygiene
  • not eating properly
  • putting themselves down
  • not being themselves.

You may spot signs that someone is lonely before the person you care about does or before they are able to talk about it. 

Or you may find it hard to admit that you think someone you care about is lonely. You might not want to think of them as feeling low or you might feel guilty. But recognising someone is lonely can help you start to help them.

Patricia's story

Patricia talks about how her life changed when she fell ill and how the Age UK befriending service helped get her back on track.


What can I do to help?

Some people may be aware they're lonely, but just not know what they can about it. If you suspect someone you know may be lonely, you can help by:

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

Be patient. When someone's 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.

Encourage and support. 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.

Services that can offer company and conversation

Age UK's befriending services can connect a lonely older person with a volunteer who can visit their home or give them a regular call.

No one should feel they have no one to turn to

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 affect of loneliness and isolation can be more damaging to our health than obesity.

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

If you know someone who is lonely, contact your local Age UK for support.

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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.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.

 

Last updated: May 21 2020

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