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Loneliness Awareness Week

by roundabout

Loneliness Awareness Week is a week dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness run by the Marmalade Trust. It’s all about creating supportive communities by having open, honest conversations. 

“Loneliness can affect anyone. Experiences of loneliness can vary, but its effects can be profound and wide-ranging. It is considered by many to be one of the largest public health challenges we face” from the campaign to end loneliness

There is a phrase about feeling lonely in a crowd. Many of the older adults with whom Roundabout Dramatherapy work could sometimes feel like this.

Although many of Roundabout’s clients live in residential homes, there are many reasons that they may feel lonely. These include the impact of dementia, where others may avoid attempts at meaningful conversations with a person who has dementia, if they find it hard to make sense of what is being said. The person with dementia may also lose their ability to use verbal communication, and finding new ways of communicating can be a struggle.

Physical challenges in mobility might make it difficult or impossible to move from place to place without support, and therefore a desire to connect with others might be insurmountable if a person stays in the same place all day.

Changes in sensory abilities, especially that of hearing, may also leave people feeling isolated, and struggling to engage with others.

In the group dramatherapy sessions offered by Roundabout, two of the many aims promoted are to facilitate and develop interaction and to reduce isolation and loneliness. Groups are small (up to six clients) to enable everyone to have space for the group’s attention and focus. People sit in a circle to enable as much awareness as possible of each other. If sensory challenges mean that clients are not hearing or seeing what is happening, the dramatherapists will give a verbal summary of what is being said or occurring, to enable all to engage and not miss out. Sitting closely together, sometimes on sofas, enables physical contact and playfulness, which is something that might not occur in daily lives, apart from the everyday physical contact given through personal care and support by carers. Through a shared check-in with each group member, more understanding can be generated of each other’s health and concerns, fostering empathy and friendships. Focused attention throughout ensures that there is potential for clients to feel valued, truly listened to, and mentally and emotionally supported.

Creative offerings within sessions often bring about shared reminiscence, playful engagement, song and dance, and a lifting of spirits, revealed through witnessing a sparkle in the eyes, smiles and laughter between peers. The intention is for the relationships that deepen within sessions to continue beyond dramatherapy, within the home.

Care staff sometimes comment on noticing these shifts in moods after dramatherapy sessions, and, through contact with a regular member of staff before and after sessions, dramatherapists can learn more of what is happening for the residents that can be borne in mind in what is offered in sessions, and home staff can hear feedback from dramatherapy that can support their interactions with residents.