So lonely: physio staff to play a role in combating loneliness for disabled people

Sarah White wants physio staff to play their part in combating the loneliness affecting many disabled people.

MP Jo Cox said that ‘we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’. Following her death in 2016, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was created in her honour. 
Last month, as part of the commission, national disability charity Sense launched a campaign to raise awareness about the disproportionately high levels of loneliness experienced by disabled people. In stark contrast to the views Jo Cox expressed, only half of the people who took part in a Sense survey felt that they had much in common with disabled people.
The survey also found that more than half of disabled people have experienced loneliness, rising to three-quarters of young disabled people. Shockingly, one person in four in the UK say they avoid having conversations with a disabled person, due to, for example, a fear of causing offence (30 per cent), feeling uncomfortable (20 per cent) or not knowing what to talk about (17 per cent).
Physiotherapists are in a prime position to identify and support lonely people, or those at risk of becoming so. 
A key aspect in any rehabilitation programme should be whether the person’s condition might affect their ability to access social opportunities. In addition, being able to identify people who are lonely and signposting them to appropriate local organisations and services can be helpful.
As part of Sense’s national awareness campaign to highlight the prevalence of loneliness among disabled people, we would like you to show your support on Twitter by using the campaign hashtag #happytochat.
Social interaction is crucial to our health and wellbeing. Professionals supporting disabled people should be aware of the risks and impact of loneliness and know how to alleviate it. 

To find out more

About how you can support your patients and combat loneliness in your community, visit our website here.
  • Sarah White is policy and partnerships manager (health) at Sense.
Sarah White is policy and partnerships manager (health) at Sense

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