It can be easy to let others, especially those who are not always visible or make themselves heard, to slip down my priorities, or even - ashamedly - my mind. The voices will not speak up, as they do not wish to be a burden. I have to remember to make that extra trip to hear them.
On the other hand, I hear people so often patronise and belittle their elders. I try my very best to go to my elderly - and sometimes lonely - neighbours and relatives with good will, respect and let them lead the interaction.
The best ways I have found to lend a helping hand are:
- Just pop in "on the way to the shops" or "just after church" etc. Then a person might not feel they have been any trouble, if they might have otherwise done.
- Take an extra portion of something you have made when you do pop in. A simple "I thought you might like to try a piece" or "I cooked too much."
- Just give a ring before you pop in. Some people value their privacy and do not like unexpected guests. A phone call before visiting also gives you the opportunity to offer to collect something from the library or shops, or pick up a prescription, on your way .
- If you have children who have been playing or eating during the visit, there is a good excuse to offer running the vacuum over the floor or giving the cups you all drank from a quick wash at the end of the visit.
- Make sure the person knows that if you are able to, you can give lifts to hospital/GP appointments. I have a relative who I have accompanied to appointments by taxi - it is the company more than a lift she appreciates.
- Check that the person is receiving regular medical check-ups, has enough medication, has enough food and warmth.
- I have found it is late afternoon and evening that relatives and neighbours can feel lonely. This is when the visitors seem to dry up. Try popping in then, or give the person a phone call in the evening. A phone call is so easy to do and is so often very much appreciated. I do this once the younger children are settled in bed.
- Make sure others are popping by, whether family members, another neighbour or church friends. Try to get an idea of if there are any gaps in visits between appointments and others who pop by, so that you can fill that gap with a visit or simply with a phone call that day.
- Include them to any gatherings at your home, making sure they can be given a lift or have a taxi booked. Also, offer to take the person out, rather than just popping by, even if it is to a nearby coffee shop in a taxi, or to sit in a local park for an hour in the warmer weather.
- Listen. This is so important. If I can't do anything else practical, giving a person enough of my time to listen is so simple.
Do you have any tips for helping to relieve loneliness and be a help to elderly relatives and neighbours? I would certainly appreciate any ideas you might share.