Dec 12, 2017

Care Alert: Visiting the Lonely Elderly This Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a time of togetherness, where families and friends gather to celebrate the holiday.

But for some elderly people, the holidays are a lonely time. Without presents, a shared meal, and worst of all, no visitors.

The Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt launched a national campaign to reduce loneliness this festive season, revealing he recently visited an aged care home where, year-round, none of the residents receive visitors.

A whole facility. Not a single visitor.

“This is a particularly distressing situation, despite the best efforts of the aged care staff,” Minister Wyatt said.

“I have previously raised concerns that up to 40 per cent of aged care residents receive no visitors but 100 per cent 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 comes at the launch of the Australian Red Cross’s Season of Belonging campaign, with the results of a Red Cross survey highlighting the extent of loneliness in Australia.

“The survey indicated that up to a quarter of us are lonely some or almost all of the time,” said Minister Wyatt.

“This equates 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”.

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

The Season of Belonging campaign encourages people in the community to take five steps this 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

Australian Red Cross CEO, Judy Slatyer said, “We’re launching the Season of Belonging because we believe nobody should be alone and isolated this Christmas.”

“Loneliness doesn’t have to be a constant part of so many lives – all it takes is one person to reach out and brighten up a person’s life with one of our easy steps,” she added.

“Even a simple phone call or an invitation to Christmas dinner can make the world of difference to someone who is isolated”.

Minister Wyatt said campaigns such as this are vitally important to ensuring people are not forgotten this Christmas.

Research found that between 60 and 70 per cent of home care clients experienced loneliness.

“As the new Red Cross campaign recommends, volunteering is a particularly valuable way to help reduce community isolation,” Minister Wyatt said.

“I’m also proud the Government provides practical support for senior Australians who may be experiencing loneliness, with $17.2 million for the Community Visitors Scheme this financial year.”

The Community Visitors Scheme has volunteers make regular visits to people who are socially isolated or are at risk of social isolation or loneliness.

“The role of a volunteer in this Scheme is simply to be a friend to someone. Our need for love, company, compassion, family and friends does not diminish as we age.

“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.”

For more information and to find ways to tackle loneliness in your community, visit the Red Cross.

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