Taking action against loneliness in nursing homes
This Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with Flor, Daniely and Sarah, part of the team at Penylan House Nursing Home in Cardiff, to find out how they tackle loneliness and help residents to live their best lives.
Looking out for loneliness
The are many different signs that someone may be experiencing loneliness. Knowing what to look for is a vital first step in guarding against feelings of loneliness continuing. It’s essential in preventing feelings progressing to affect mental health more seriously.
For the team at Penylan House, getting to know the residents individually means the team can tell straight away if someone in their care is feeling low. “When you go to say good morning, you can tell immediately if a resident is beginning to feel lonely”, says Flor, “they may become quiet or withdrawn, not themselves.” Having a close relationship with residents and talking to them regularly helps the Penylan House team to keep an eye on how each resident is feeling. It also builds the bonds that make residents feel at home and happy.
Causes and signs of loneliness in care home residents
For some residents, loneliness can affect them when a health condition progresses, or their general health deteriorates. It can cause them to feel less able to join in with activities they usually enjoy. This can mean that a resident might not come along to a planned event, or they may start to make excuses to avoid taking part when they’ve previously had lots of fun.
There are other changes to look out for, too. A loss of appetite or an increase in the amount of time sleeping can be warning signals that someone is feeling lonely. Sometimes, residents start to take less pride in their appearance than they normally would.
These are key signs that someone could be experiencing feelings of loneliness. When loneliness presents itself, it’s important to tackle it quickly.
As soon as the team at Penylan House notice any change in behaviour, they take action to reengage their resident and support them. “The rapport you build with residents means you can see straight away when someone needs extra support,” Sarah explains.
Most people feel lonely at some point during their lives. It’s a feeling that can be caused by many factors including life changes, moving to a new place, or experiencing a health problem that brings difficulties or limitations. Since these are all events that can occur when someone moves into a care setting, the team at Penylan House have plenty of experience and resources to make sure their residents find joy and contentment every day.
One of the most important ways to prevent loneliness is to find activities that residents love. Activities can bring a more fulfilled life and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, Flor says. She and the carers encourage residents to take part in as many different activities as they would like to, and adapt all kinds of pursuits so they are suitable for each individual resident.
When everyone can take part in fun and engaging pastimes, even if they are having difficulty with mobility or health issues, it builds a sense of engagement and belonging.
The options for activities are endless. Read more about the ways we help our residents stay active
Group activities are a wonderful way to prevent people from feeling lonely, and activity coordinators Flor and Daniely make sure there’s something for all residents to get involved with. They organise a wide variety of group activities, from bingo and dominoes to outdoor sports and visits with friends and family.
Hobbies that conjure a sense of home, like cooking and gardening, bring comfort and a sense of belonging to a care home. And when residents get involved with collaborations with local schools, or with visits from animals, they can rediscover a sense of themselves and reminisce over favourite life events.
Hands-on pastimes are a rewarding way for residents to use their creative skills and even celebrate big events. The residents at Penylan House recently made and decorated crowns ready for the Queen’s jubilee celebrations, keeping them engaged with the world around them and bringing joy and creativity.
High-tech solutions for loneliness
Music can have an amazing uplifting effect on the spirits, and the residents at Penylan House Nursing home love to move with the times. The team arrange for the residents to get together and groove to their favourite tunes, each wearing a set of headphones in a ‘silent disco’ – it’s a great way to foster a sense of belonging and joy.
Using virtual reality equipment enables residents to experience the sights and sounds they love or even travel the world when they aren’t able to visit first-hand. Exotic and cosmopolitan locations can come to the nursing home in Cardiff, providing wonder and adventure and helping to prevent loneliness and isolation.
The human touch
Involvement in activities is only one aspect of preventing loneliness. Human connection is something we all need in life, and bringing this to care is essential in avoiding feelings of loneliness.
A conversation can make a huge difference in reducing feelings of isolation and helping residents not to become withdrawn, says Flor. “A simple chat can draw someone out of themselves. But so can just being there with them.”
Sarah describes how sitting beside someone, holding their hand, can make an enormous difference to a resident’s mental health and well-being. For the care team at Penylan House, the residents truly become a second family, and they love to listen to stories about the lives people have lived.
Caring with empathy to support wellbeing
The last two years have been particularly difficult for residents in care homes. The tight legal restrictions on visits from friends and family, and limitations placed on the usual calendar of events and occasions have meant that residents have been even more at risk of isolation.
The team, too, have found the challenges of the pandemic tough, and this has meant that the team have an even deeper empathy with any resident experiencing loneliness. They’re truly able to understand that loneliness can affect anyone, and they’ve become even more resourceful in creating an engaging, welcoming and happy place to live. They bring together all kinds of measures to maintain and build emotional well-being in residents and prevent loneliness.
Fortunately, the community at Penylan House Nursing Home has helped to keep everyone’s spirits up, and the residents and carers have become a second family to each other. They’ve supported one another and made sure residents can maintain bonds with families outside the care home, and taken care of their wellbeing with connection and activities.
The secret to combatting loneliness
Preventing loneliness is among the most important services that Penylan House Nursing Home provides to its residents.
Mental health and well-being are best supported through empathy, connection, and kindness. These can be shown in a wide variety of ways – through arranging and adapting activities that residents can enjoy as a group, to sharing a conversation over a cup of tea, or by simply being present in the moment.
It starts with simply checking whether residents are feeling ok, and finding tailored activities and pastimes to prevent loneliness and promote good mental health and well-being.
Learn more about the ways we support our residents. Call us to find out whether Penylan House Nursing Home could become your new home.