Aims - Dementia and Loneliness
Dementia and Loneliness Policy Position Paper
Loneliness is a complex phenomenon that impacts on both mental and physical health. Some studies suggest that the effects of isolation and loneliness on health and mortality are on par with other lifestyle risk factors. Dementia is also a complex condition and coupled with loneliness, it may have severe impact on individuals.
The Alzheimers Society of Ireland commissioned an interdisciplinary team of researchers from University College Cork to carry out a detailed review of the literature combined with interviews with people living with dementia and their respective partner, and consultation with service providers to understand the perspective of different stakeholders.
Three key themes emerged: the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships, maintaining independence, and socio-cultural influences on individual perceptions of loneliness and dementia. The results emphasise the importance of maintaining both a sense of self and meaningful relationships with others post-diagnosis for individuals who identified themselves as “not lonely”.
The majority of participants’ existing social connections with others was established prior to their diagnosis, although the maintenance of these relationships may have required an adjustment of their premorbid routines and method of social engagement.
This is the first study of its kind in Ireland and little research has been carried out internationally in terms of trying to understand the relationship between dementia and loneliness. This sets out the Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s position on dementia and loneliness, and how loneliness in dementia can be addressed and alleviated.
The Team: Dr Irene Hartigan (Lead Researcher), Gyunghee Park, Dr Suzanne Timmons, Dr Tony Foley, Dr Aisling Jennings, Dr Nicola Cornally, Professor Nicole Müller.
External adviser: Loneliness Taskforce, Sage-Support and Advocacy Service, National Dementia Office, HSE & Professor Vanessa Burholt, Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, Wales.