Research shows that social isolation can be a barrier to care for people living with a terminal illness

by Susan Lowes Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Scotland Susan Lowe, Policy & Public Affairs Manager, Scotland Recent research carried out by the London School of Economics (LSE), and commissioned by Marie Curie, shows that someone with a terminal illness who is single or living alone may find it more difficult to access the right care. In recent years there has been an increase in one-person households across the UK, with levels in Scotland higher than average. In 1961, single households only accounted for 14% of all Scottish households, but this had increased to 35% by 2011. These numbers are projected to increase to 41% – that’s 1.15 million people – by 2037. Those above pensionable age are more likely to have complex and long term conditions, and many of these may be living with a terminal illness. Living with a terminal illness in itself is isolating; it can be incredibly restrictive physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually – and this can often be the case even when a person is surrounded by friends and family members. The LSE report shows that single people or those living alone have worse perceptions of pain management and are far less likely to access a range of community-based services than others. As the number of single households continues to grow, so too will these problems. Every day matters when you’re living with a terminal illness and we want to help people make the most of the time they have left. We want people to be able to choose where and how they will live at the end of their lives and where and how they will die. For example, having a carer is the most important factor that allows people to be able to die at home, but being single or living alone significantly increases the likelihood of a hospital death. We don’t think this is good enough. That is why we’ve launched services such as the Marie Curie Helper Service and Marie Curie Support Line to help people, including those who might be isolated socially, to get the right information and support at the right time. Having these support networks in place can make all the difference. Marie Curie is changing the conversation about terminal illness so that people can have the best possible quality of life and death, regardless of their circumstances, and you can help. Take a look at our campaign page to see how you can get involved.