Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Lonely Tsar


I heard today we have a new minister for loneliness
Tracey Crouch has been given the job.....strange that seeing that she voted numerous times against increasing benefits for the long term chronically unwell and the unemployed.
But I won't be disingenuous just yet. Just having a loneliness advocate is a positive move I am sure.

I've posted this before but it is worth repeating here, that a few years ago I found myself washing an elderly lady on intensive care. She had survived a bout of sepsis and after I had successfully extubated her from the ventilator that had kept her alive for a week or so , I removed many of the invasive lines from her body and needed to "freshen her up" before allowing her to sleep.
I remember her watching me through her oxygen mask as I dabbed and dried here and there, and after I had finished combing her hair and wrapping her snugly into a blanket she croaked a brief thank you.
" That's the first time anyone has touched me in over nine years" she told me.
The phrase hit home as if I had been struck with a baseball bat

Nine years!

75 comments:

  1. Most people could do with a little hug every now and then.

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    1. No silly, I meant instead of waiting nine years, that's not healthy. We all could use at least a hug once in awhile; however people can't come across as a hornet and then expect people to hug them.

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  3. That makes me so sad. I don't think human beings were meant to go for years on end without being touched. :(


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    1. I think we only think that loneliness is the absence to verbal interaction....she taught me about physical absence

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  4. A Minister for Loneliness? Who will be The Minister of Love? Who will be The Minister of Vengeance, The Minister of Envy, The Minister of Lost Causes? Who will be The Minister For Dreams and Fantasies?

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  5. Your new Ministry of Loneliness has made the CBC news over here in Canada. People kind of fixate on the rather goofy name but the underlying purpose is a sound one, I think. Promoting greater social and community interaction to offset isolation is a good thing. Seniors will be an obvious target clientele, of course, for the Ministry's services but other segments of society may benefit as well.

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    1. Perhaps funding of " silver line" which is a phone support to isolated elderly would be a start

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    2. And those who are deaf or have vision issues, who are especially ignored and sidelined and lonely, would again be ignored.

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  6. Sorry John but I was given that to contact and it made my toes and hair curl.

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  7. I launched a professional email discussion list today, on the issue of Aging Solo, persons without readily identifiable family and friends. Professional tend to focus on the medical, social and legal resources, we tend to overlook the personal toll that aging alone takes. We can change this.

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    1. The Prof wants to do some work on this subject too

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  8. Mom in law in one nursing home, my dad in another. Both have advanced dementia. Nothing to be done except hug them often, brush hair, cup their faces with my hands, look into their eyes and tell them they are loved. It's not much but your post reminded me that perhaps, it may be everything. Thank you John. X

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  9. Before each Sunday service our minister circulates and hugs everyone who wants a hug. I love that and told him that is important work and that for some people that is the only hug they get all week. Not me, I am a hugger. That lady sure appreciated your care.

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    1. Forced hugs are pretty dire x

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  10. Did a quick google search and I find the entire idea of a Minister of Loneliness to be fairly amazing. From the article I read on the position, it seems that half of those over 75 live alone and can go days or even weeks without social interaction.

    So it sounds like an issue to be addressed, and real. Which is what makes my desire to sing to the tune of "The Great Pretender": "Oh yes, I'm the Minister of Loneliness..."

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    1. It can only be a positive move ( let's hope)

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  11. I teach a class on balance and fall prevention to over age 60 and we have people fill out forms and releases. Many "refuse" to give an emergency contact!? I wonder who is in their life?

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    1. that is terribly sad and their embarrassment makes it seem even sadder

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  12. I teach a class on balance and fall prevention to over age 60 and we have people fill out forms and releases. Many "refuse" to give an emergency contact!? I wonder who is in their life?

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  13. Your Minister made the USA news, too. A Loneliness Tzar is what we really need, in all the best sense, all over the world.

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    1. Depends on what they can do.....it's a cultural change.

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  14. And I wonder who will even know my sister exists if I go first. Does this minister have a list and checking it twice etc. Sorry but this struck a cord.

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  15. I doubt USA has such a position, but if we did, he'd probably get rid of it.

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  16. Such a bald, raw statement of a painful truth. Dear old soul.

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  17. Oh my...I don't even know what to say. I can't imagine...

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  18. How very sad it is and I hate to think that I live right on the edge of this sort of life ... I know no one and everyone drives, no one walks so I don't see or talk to anyone, unless it is a clerk in a store.
    It could be very easy to become one of those silent people who exist but no one notices.
    I have worried about this because of my cats. If I were to die , no one would know then the cats would be trapped in the house with my dead body and no food ... it is too horrid to think about .
    This is why I will move back to NY ..

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    1. Is there anyone you could arrange a daily check in with, by email? Or phone or text? The person need not live nearby, but if they didn't hear from you within 24 hours, they could ask your local police or fire dept to do a safety check. If not a friend or relative, maybe you have household help who could, for a small payment, do a brief daily call. Maybe install a cat door so the cats can at least get out? Medical Alert wristband? WE did the daily calls w my mom, they annoyed her but we felt she needed us to be sure she was okay and she refused to use a Medi Alert gadget: "Tacky". Also you must have neighbors out there even if they re miles away. Buy a box of cookies or a six pack of beer and go knock on a few doors?

      lizzy

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    2. a cat lady in NEW YORK ! how very Truman Capote

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    3. Dear NAB, I moved in to a new community a few years ago. I signed up to volunteer for two organizations. One was a dud but the other has been wonderful for meeting people and two regular committee meetings a month means someone will notice my absence. If your health allows I would recommend volunteering. Perhaps when you get to NY?

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  19. Loneliness is a terrible thing, not just for the elderly. Good post.
    x

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  20. On the crisis line I suspect that lonliness underpins most of our calls.
    I saw the Appointment of a Minister for Lonliness - and thought it was a huge job.

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  21. It's funny seeing those car tracks from TLOFLDR. Nowadays such things would never happen; even though we still get the occasional inappropriate TV aerial.

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  22. Did you mean *disingenuous*?: "synonyms: insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious; hypocritical". I can't imagine any politician actually being useful to all the lonely people.

    lizzy

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  23. This is a very touching post. We can all learn from it. I hope they attach dollars to the Minister's portfolio otherwise it will all be for naught. It's a very interesting concept and much needed.

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  24. Loneliness starts like a physical ache. I could write an essay on this.

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    1. a lot of your friends would read it

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  25. That post really hit me. Poor woman, and there are so many others, both women and men in that same position today. I was impressed with Weavers description (in her post yesterday) of all the community uses their local ex-school is put to. A truely inclusive community.

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  26. I wish we had a minister for loneliness here in Australia to raise awareness if nothing else.

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  27. I used to work among thousands of people, and was accustomed to it. Now, after 9 years of retirement, I find myself inventing errands --mainly to be among people. I love the simple courtesies we commonly exchange in public. I live with my wife, and am not lonely, but sometimes I just have to be in crowds. I quite understand your patient's feeling, even though I am only a boy of 68. As I recall writing on my 1st comment here, years ago, you are an angel.

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    1. its easy to miss bustle .
      I understand that so much having lived in a city for so long..

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    2. Good heavens! Here it is the 19th and I just remembered where the photo came from. Saw that film on PBS here in the states back in the mid-1960s and it left a permanent impression. I was a long-distance runner back then but only now get the double entendre. Sometimes it takes a while.

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  28. I'd missed her appointment. Hmmm. She's one of our local Kent MPs.... none of whom inspire any degree of confidence she was sport which at least she had some passion for.

    The story is terrible to hear.

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  29. I am an ex hospice sister. 2 years ago I had a brain haemorrhage,when I was recovering a wonderful nurse gave me a shower. I will never be able to thank her enough, her compassion shone through

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    1. yes.......the sense of feeling clean and underneath cool crisp white sheets

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. We have a befrienders group in our village but it isn't for everyone and quite frankly has been used as free carers by one family which isn't what it's for. it isn't for everyone so now a pop in group is starting to see a friendly face regularly, have a coffee, play a game, have a chat. I shall sign up to help regularl. I often hug a lady at the charity shop who lost her husband recently. I try to do a bear hug but she is a lot bigger than me ! A friend's husband died before Christmas, when I hug her I think she will break as is so skinny.

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    1. I listened to radio 2 the other day and on it was a woman who made 64 separate Christmas dinnersfor single elderly people in her town

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  33. In a winter the only people we see are a couple of elderly Jehovah's Witnesses . The hospital visits are our only trips out . We were never very socially active people but it does get grim. It makes you wonder how many people only see the postman and the Tesco delivery van out here , rural isolation can be chilling

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  34. I used to think that of my dad. I was the only one in the family who hugged him.

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  35. Anonymous9:45 am

    I was having an aromatherapy massage done by a mature student and asked her whether this was going to be a career change. She said not because she loved her job and learning massage would help her do it better. It turned out that she was a carer in a home for the elderly. She went on to tell me of the power of touch and how some people are never touched. This was about thirty years ago and I was ashamed that I had never realised. I think there are more people who are isolated these days for all sorts of reasons. A timely reminder John.
    Jax

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  36. It reminds me that us English people are not Gods chosen people we are Gods frozen people. Obviously that doesn't apply to you John. However at least folks in a Europe get kissed now and again, twice or thrice, when they bump into someone they know. I don't like the idea of all that kissing but maybe we don't know what's good for us?

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  37. I think human touch is a basic necessity and feel so sad for this poor woman and all those in her position, with nobody in their lives. I love hugging and being hugged, although not the forced kind that was proposed at one Midnight Mass service I attended. I nearly fled, but endured. I’m glad I did having read your post, I may have been someone’s only hug for some time.

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  38. I've arranged for a massage therapist to work with my 95 yr. old Mom in a care home where she lives. She comes once a week and has to convince my Mom she needs therapy every time she comes. Mom worries about the expense even though I'm paying. I think the weekly touch and massage is so important for her.

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    1. a lovely idea and so important me thinks

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  39. Many years ago John Gray I volunteered (aged 15) at the Deva, Saughall ward if I remember rightly. One day I was talking to one of the patients (she had been in there many years) and she told me she had a son, I asked if he visited her and she replied no he lived too far away. Thinking he lived abroad, I asked her where and she told me Birkenhead !! I can remember this like it was yesterday, when my parents got older I never visited then once a day when they were in the hospital/hospice but twice sometimes 3 !! xx

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    1. I once was called to Saughall as a student nurse to stop a fight

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  40. Imagine . . .
    Bedridden
    Watching
    Feeling
    Remembering
    Touch
    Care
    Nine years . . .
    Her thank you . . .

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  41. I do not wish to take away from the tender ablutions you gave that particular and other patients. However, there is touch and there is touch. The professional touch, the one that you applied, is one; the private and personal quite another.

    Let me give you an example, as silly and far fetched as it sounds: Watch a dedicated loving mother change their little Angel's nappy and watch a, say, nursery nurse, do the same. It's not the same. The result may be the same (clean nappy), the interaction is totally different. Trust me. And if it weren't then all those people devoid of touch would just go to the hairdresser to have their scalp massaged (something I think we all enjoy) or go for a therapeutic back massage or, if all else fails, stroke a dog or a cat.

    A subject, as so often, too big to fit into the constraints of a comment box.

    U

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    1. when you are devoid of even the briefest of touches, even the most professional or brief can be like a drop of water is the desert

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  42. Nine years! I wouldn't make it even if it were for only 9 months. When we say hello or goodbye to family and friends we always kiss on both cheeks. I hug a lot too and also like to get hugged, but I know that some people don't like physical contact so I'm not always that spontaneous.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. in my experience some people go longer than 9 years

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  43. So very sad to think of all the people who miss out on any human contact in today's world. we need more interaction between generations too like the programme a while back which showed young children going into a care home and doing the old people a power of good!

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  44. Anonymous9:02 pm

    Oh my. Heartbreaking.

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  45. Oh my god, that actually made me feel sick to the stomach with upset, if that makes sense. Terrible, terrible times for some of our elderly. I am going to make a real effort to do more in the community around this. John, you really have a very powerful way of writing. X

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  46. I heard this on CBC radio this morning. A good move I feel.

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  47. I have to say that this made me cry. And I'm a pretty tough old bird. How horribly sad. Thank you for the information about a Minister for Loneliness - wtf?

    I have been enjoying reading your blog for a little while now...

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