The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of letting patients, relatives and healthcare professionals alike, share their stories on the impact COVID-19 has had on death and dying across palliative care. Loneliness is a complex construct, which incorporates or overlaps with other similar concepts such as social isolation. Loneliness, social isolation and being alone are often viewed and treated as the same construct; yet, there are quite a few distinct differences, especially in how they may impact those experiencing them. For example, the first two are often used interchangeably in everyday language, thereby distorting any distinction between them. We should understand the difference between loneliness and social isolation to ensure any interventions are tailored appropriately to help people manage their lives better.
Social isolation arises from a situation where there is minimal or total absence of other people to interact with (Tzouvara et al, 2015); therefore, it is an objective state as it is often outside our control. One solution is to ensure patients have someone with them most of the time, whether this be at home or within our institutions. On the other hand, being alone can be out of choice (men in the shed syndrome) and therefore, a controllable preference where one is conscious of it and may not always feel lonely. It can enhance one's sense of well-being; hence, carers need to appreciate this dynamic as well.
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