In touch

Living alone does have some advantages, but it’s not much fun! If you have no partner with you and no children living with you then you will know what it’s like to be lonely, at least for some of the time, even in a care home.

Feeling alone is more acute when you experience lockdowns and/or your only method of transport is the public system of trains, trams, or buses (or the kindness of family or friends!). All visiting can be awkward or time-consuming, or physically difficult at any time.

Yet, for those of us who are still reasonably mobile and able to drive, visiting is even more fraught because of the COVID factor. And that becomes another obstacle to face-to-face contact with those we would like to see. For some less able people having to navigate a mix of public transport to visit a friend or do some shopping is just a ‘bridge too far’.

For those of us who are reasonably computer literate these days it’s much easier and quicker, but not so satisfying, to visit electronically. We are able to use emails and, perhaps, one of the social media platforms, like Facebook other visual apps on our new-fangled mobile phones.

But spare a thought for those folk who can’t quite handle this ‘new’ tech. Without a mobile phone, their old hand-held dial phone is still a precious part of life which provides their only other verbal method of contact. So, I encourage my readers to ‘dial-up’ and keep in touch with such friends, bearing in mind it’s their only two-way link for now, anyway, to their friends and family outside the home.

So, this is an appeal: it’s especially important to keep verbal contact with your friends in aged care homes. Personal visits may not be permitted at times and, when they are possible, it will usually entail a rigorous RAT test, probably outside under cover and bitterly cold at this time of year! That fifteen-minute procedure seems such a big investment in time, but it is a small and necessary contribution to try and support the residents, and especially the staff who are ‘stretched’ at every hospital and care home.

It is incredibly difficult at most establishments to find meaningful in-house activities (and the staff to organise them) as a stimulus for movement and intellectual challenge, and that has always been so. As a fairly regular visitor to my local Blue Cross home I see, first-hand, how COVID has reduced available staff and created stress. But it has also highlighted their dedication to do their best to engage with the residents in a personal and caring way – it is a mammoth task and it’s simply love that keeps the place going so well.

Sometimes I hear a criticism from a resident that some activity has been curtailed. I am quick to respond that, under the prevailing staff shortages and stringent hygiene rules, we must expect a little less-than-perfect in all parts of our lives, no matter where we live.

Accepting that reality can be hard; a little discomfort in these times is inevitable and affects all of us as we try to keep in touch, wherever we are, whatever we do…….