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‘Tis the season to tackle loneliness and check in with older Australians

Families and friendship groups across the nation are being urged to use the upcoming Festive Season as a time to check in with, check on and prepare for the older people in their lives.

(Source: Shutterstock)
(Source: Shutterstock)

The calls to action, coming from government departments and peak bodies within the aged care and health industry, have also led to the formation and launch of a national campaign aimed at reducing loneliness among older Australians this Christmas and New Year.

Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt launched the initiative in light of his recent speech at the National Press Club where he revealed that many older Australians in aged care receive no visitors during the year.

“This is a particularly distressing situation, despite the bet efforts of the aged care staff,” he explains.

“I have previously raised concerns that up to 40 percent of aged care residents receive no visitors but 100 percent is completely unacceptable.

“So more than ever this Christmas, I am asking all Australians to reach out to people in residential aged care and relatives, friends and community members everywhere in need of company.”

The Minister’s plea coincides with the launch of the Australian Red Cross’s Season of Belonging campaign, with the results of a Red Cross survey further highlighting the extent of loneliness in Australia.

The survey indicates that up to a quarter of Australians are lonely some or almost all of the time - equating to up to 5.6 million people with men over the age of 55 the most likely to feel the impact of loneliness after divorces or separations.

The Season of Belonging campaign, endorsed by Minister Wyatt, encourages five simple steps for Christmas:

  • Meet neighbours
  • Volunteer
  • Say hello to someone new in the neighbourhood
  • Check on someone who may be in trouble
  • Be kind on social media

Backing the initiative, Minister Wyatt says campaigns such as this are “vitally important” to ensuring people are not forgotten this Christmas.

“I believe Australia is a caring society but as our lives have become busier, we have left too many people behind,” he says.

“It’s up to all of us to show people, especially senior Australians, that we care and value them, by being there as much as we can.”

Dementia Australia has also acknowledged Christmas as an opportunity for family and friends to understand the challenges faced by people living with dementia, with Chief Executive Officer Maree McCabe calling on the community to support the wishes of people living with dementia, their families and carers to “have their loved ones with them, engaged in the festivities an surrounded by family and friends”.

To make the Festive Season easier on those living with dementia and older Australians, Primary Health Network Northern Sydney has released some key tips for family and friends:

  • Be prepared with medication - talk to your local GP or pharmacist and have Webster packs ready to go
  • Stay hydrated - Drinking water and remaining hydrated can have a big role to play in keeping older people out of the emergency department
  • Follow dietary restrictions - During Christmas it can be hard to stick to dietary restrictions like low sodium, but to help, plan ahead
  • Drink in moderation - Drinking can impair functionality of older people, consider fun alcohol free drinks
  • Shake up tradition - Consider passing the stress of organising a big Christmas meal or event onto younger family members, or if the older person insists on hosting, make sure young people help with cleaning up and preparing to reduce stress
  • Reduce financial strain - For those on a pension or fixed income, holidays can be a financial strain, consider a family gift bag with one gift given per person
  • Rest after travelling - No matter how they travel, older people should have a chance to rest when they arrive at their destination, avoid going straight into family activities
  • Make home accessible - ensure your home is safe and accessible for older relatives, be mindful of tripping hazards, dark rugs and keep the elderly on the first floor to avoid stumbles
  • Take breaks - Schedule in a nap or time to relax with a cup of tea in between events and shopping everyone not just the elderly will appreciate it
  • Stay involved - Elderly people will often still want to be involved in celebrations, keep them involved by helping to decorate or making a dish to share

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