NHS Dumfries & Galloway

Publications aim to help address winter loneliness in region

A TRIO of publications is set to offer advice on how people suffering loneliness this winter can find support and guidance.

Led by a local newsletter, the three free publications have been produced within Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership and are now being circulated in communities.

Dr Fionnuala Edgar is Senior Clinical Psychologist in the Older Adults Psychology Service, and she said: “We wanted to ensure that older and retired people who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation in our communities can access the right level of support at the right time for them.

“Recent research in this area has highlighted how mental health difficulties are often not identified in later life and that problems such as depression and anxiety can increase the risk of an older person experiencing loneliness.

“In turn, loneliness itself can increase the risk of someone developing depression and anxiety.”

The winter newsletter from Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Care and Support Services (CASS) focuses on loneliness during the winter, and provides some good advice and direction.

Together with the ‘Beating the Lows in Later Life’ booklet, the newsletter has been posted out to around 340 users of Care and Support Services.

Meanwhile, Up and About is a publication developed by NHS Health Scotland which explains how to stay active while avoiding trips and falls, and this will be distributed earlier in the New Year to all service users during care visits.

All three publications will also be distributed to those people who attend services at Mountainhall Day Centre, which is operated by CASS.

Dr Edgar said: “There are lots of opportunities locally to get involved and engaged which can reduce a person’s experience of loneliness.”

Anyone who would like further information on what is on in their local area or if they or someone they know is struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation, is invited to please contact their local health and well being or health improvement teams.

Senior Clinical Psychologist in the Older Adults Psychology Service Dr Fionnuala Edgar and Care and Support Services’ Quality and Performance Lead Danny O’Neill with the newsletter and accompanying publications

Locality Teams:

Annandale Health Improvement Team: 01461 204741

Nithsdale Healthy Connections Team: 01387 244401

Stewartry Healthy Connections Team: 01556 505724

Wigtownshire Health and Well Being Team:  01776 700632 or 01671 404267

Tips on Reducing Loneliness and Social Isolation

·        Find out what’s on in your local community such as groups and activities via local media, local libraries or online (e.g. DAGWGO)

·        Try something new that you haven’t tried before and find out what works for you. If you are nervous about going along to something new, remember you won’t know what it’s like unless you try and everyone there will have felt the same as you the first time they went.

o   You will be nervous but it will get easier each time you go

o   Work and family often prevent us from ‘mixing’ so now might be a better time to try it; it is never too late to change what we do

o   Exercise groups can be less daunting as there may be less pressure on you to chat and exercise has been proven to improve mood and well being

·        If transport is an issue consider other options including:

o   Local buses – free bus passes available to all older people

o   Apply for a Taxi card to help reduce the cost of taxi transport (restrictions apply)

o   Check out local community transport initiatives

o   Consider the Rural Volunteer Service (RVS) for help and support with transport

o   Don’t be afraid to ask for a lift from friends, neighbours  and family – most people will be more than happy to help

·        Consider volunteering your time, experience and skills – no one reaches retirement without a range of skills and knowledge and there are multiple opportunities for volunteering locally. Contact your local branch of Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway for more information –

·        Are you housebound?

o   Consider accessing a befriender (e.g. Food Train Friends/Visibility)

o   Contact a telephone befriending and support line such as The Silver Line 0800 4 70 80 90 (24 hours a day/7 days a week)

o   Link  in to the Internet and join social media or try services such as Skype and Facetime to video link in with friends and family afar

o   There are also a number of interest groups that are solely ‘online’ e,g. The virtual U3A – www.vu3a.org where you can share interests with people from all over the world, from your own home

o   Register for services such as ‘Meal makers’ and allow a neighbour to cook for you on a regular basis.  Contact the Food Train for more information

o   Get back in touch with old friends or family; write a letter, lift the phone and reconnect

For more advice on how to address feelings of loneliness, contact your local health and well being/health improvement teams