The TV was constantly on in the corner of Albert’s living room. He sat mostly expressionless, watching what seemed like an endless stream of black-and-white movies.
“Look at me, Ma! I'm at the top of the world!” Suddenly, Albert chuckled as he heard the line from the old movie. It was playing on the TV at the corner of his living room.
He turned to our care assistant and said: “That’s what I always called her. From the day the young lad was born to the day we lost her, she was always ‘Ma’ to me and the kids.
“And I used to repeat that James Cagney line to her when we shared happy moments. It made her smile, too.”
It was the first time Albert had seemed keen to speak about anything since we’d been given responsibility for his care. That was a few days earlier after he’d arrived home from the hospital following his hip replacement operation.
Albert is 81 and his wife, Margaret, died a few years ago. He now lives alone in a small flat. We’d learned that he had a daughter and two sons. But none of them lived locally.
And he had been the main helper for Margaret, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for a few years before her death.
Housebound due to mobility problems
Albert spoke for a while longer. He shared some fond memories and, during the conversation, revealed it had been some time since he had seen his family. “Too busy with their own lives to be worrying about me.”
It also seemed he had been mostly housebound before his operation due to mobility problems. And, by Albert’s own admittance, he had been drinking more of his “favourite tipple” than was healthy.
Albert – and the quote from the movie – remained in our care assistant’s thoughts that day. And he was at the forefront of her mind when she later reported to her coordinator.
At Care Outlook, we provide much more than physical support and the undertaking of household tasks. We are always concerned about the general wellbeing of the people in our care and their happiness.
Albert appeared to be like many people who we meet. He was especially typical of someone who had spent a lot of time supporting an ailing partner who had subsequently passed away.
Television is the main form of company
Loneliness and social isolation are serious problems among the elderly. Age UK has reported:
There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in this country.
Two-fifths of all older people say the television is their main form of company.
Loneliness can be as harmful to someone’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day as it’s often linked to depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened stress and mental health problems.
Before he came under our care, it seemed Albert’s regular contacts with the outside world were a neighbour who placed his supermarket orders once a fortnight and the person who delivered them!
In fact, his hip problems had been a blessing of sorts as it led to him going to the hospital and spending some time in the company of others.
Of course, it also brought Albert to our attention. We set about developing a plan for him that would help his physical recovery and address the isolation.
Plan to tackle isolation
As well as the general therapy of regular visits from members of our team, the plan for Albert included:
Contact with his family. His daughter lives in Australia but now makes weekly video calls that he takes on a tablet she bought for him.
An introduction to the befriending service offered by his local branch of Age UK. A volunteer befriender visits him at home and occasionally takes him out for a trip.
Support from Contact the Elderly, the national charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation. Albert has been attending a monthly tea party and has made several new friends.
Reconnection with the local church. Albert and Margaret had been regular church-goers before she became ill. He is now attending again and participating in a variety of activities arranged by volunteers.
Visits to the football. Some of his new friends go to watch their team play at home games. Albert now joins them with one of their sons giving him transport.
One of our care workers also pops in to see Albert from time to time, even though he no longer needs our regular help.
Wellbeing at all stages of life
It is extremely satisfying for all of our team when we can support people in this way. Of course, wellbeing is important at all stages of life for others and for you! More on that topic can be found if you download our latest e-book:
In the case of Albert, we hope he now more often feels “at the top of the world”. And we are glad that, while it was his hip operation that brought Albert to us, we were able to help tackle the bigger problem of his isolation and loneliness.