AIM AND OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to explore loneliness in older people (aged 65+) living in care homes in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
BACKGROUND: Loneliness, defined as the subjective, unwelcome feeling of the lack or loss of companionship, is known to be associated with old age, especially among older people living in care homes. Although several studies have shown that loneliness is highly prevalent, we lack knowledge about older people's personal experience of loneliness when residing in a care home and the strategies that older people use by themselves on a day-to-day basis to alleviate loneliness.
METHODS: The participants (n = 75) were randomly selected from three different types of care homes: governmental, non-governmental and private, and loneliness was screened using the Revised University of California-Los Angeles (R-UCLA) Loneliness Scale. The 15 participants with the highest score on the loneliness scale were purposively selected for individual interviews.
RESULTS: The median loneliness score was 45 (range 20-80); no significant differences concerning loneliness were found between the care homes. No differences concerning loneliness were found for any demographic variable except marital status. Loneliness was experienced as coping with inner pain, which older people described as emotional suffering caused by feeling abandoned from the family network and fettered to the care home, anxious about their future and depressed. Participants managed their loneliness by accepting their loneliness, practising religion, staying in touch with family, engaging in daily activities and participating in social activities.
CONCLUSION: Reliable and socio-culturally validated tools for screening loneliness and culturally applicable interventions targeting factors associated with loneliness are necessary in the care of older people residing in care homes. A person-centred approach involving family or significant others is recommended in clinical practice, and an increase in the number of nurses with specialist education in geriatric nursing seems urgent.
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