Help and support if you live alone
Isolation can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also create practical problems like missing out on meals, not being able to wash regularly or do household jobs like cleaning. If you’re feeling isolated, don’t hesitate to speak to a healthcare professional, like your GP, district nurse or Marie Curie Nurse, who’ll let you know support is available in your area.
Activities and befriending schemes can help you to feel less lonely and isolated. There are lots of things you can do, like reading, painting or gardening (if you’re able to do some physical activity).
A befriending scheme is a network of people, usually volunteers, who can provide regular companionship and conversation. Befriending schemes can help to restore an important sense of belonging and confidence, as well as easing loneliness and anxiety.
There are several free befriending schemes in the UK. Some involve personal visits, others a phone call. There are also e-befriending services – for communicating by email.
Marie Curie runs a free scheme, called the Marie Curie Helper service, where a trained volunteer can visit you at home for up to three hours each week. Volunteers can take you out on a shopping trip or for coffee, or take you to appointments. If you’re not able to go out, they can simply visit you for a chat.
Age UK (see below for branches in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) runs a network of long-term befriending services, which work by matching up an older person with a befriender. It also runs a telephone befriending service if you have difficulty leaving the house.
Another way to feel less isolated is by joining a special interest group. There are plenty around, from walking and golf to art and writing groups. They can also help you to meet people.
You can find local groups by seeing what your local branch of Age UK offers. The information line number is 0800 169 65 65. Community centres often organise outings and events – search for your local community centre and see what they have on.
Going to the library is a good idea if you enjoy reading. Libraries often have events too. You could look up what events are being held at your local library or ask them next time you go in. Or you may like to join a volunteer group .
If you’re not sure about joining a group, visiting museums and galleries can help to get you out of the house and doing something you like. They often hold free talks about their exhibitions which are an opportunity to meet others.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help finding a group to join. Your doctor or nurse may be able to make some suggestions. Remember that although the first group you go to might not suit you it could lead you to finding another group or organisation to try.
Care and Repair is an organisation that helps people in England, Scotland and Wales with DIY jobs around the home, and offers one-to-one befriending opportunities as part of its free service:
Isolation is also a problem for carers. Many carers feel alone and without support. Organisations like Carers UK, Carers Northern Ireland , Carers Wales , Care Info Scotland and Carers Trust can put you in touch with local support groups.
They also have online forums to help carers share their experiences, mentoring services and information – for example, on how to get respite care from local social services to get the breaks that you need. The Marie Curie Community is also a good place to talk to people who understand how you're feeling.
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