Communicating and Social Engagement

When speaking with health care professionals, it is important to be prepared so that they can provide support by offering recommendations, strategies to try, referrals to other specialists or other forms of assistance. Unfortunately, openly discussing feelings of loneliness or depression is not always easy. Even if your health care professional does not ask about loneliness or depression, it should be discussed. The following are some helpful tips on how you can communicate with health care professionals about isolation, loneliness, and/or depression.

Offer Detail

The more detail you can provide about a change in a person’s mood and behaviour, the more a health professional can work out different strategies to help. Details such as: when it started, how long they have been feeling this way, what you have tried so far, anything that happened recently that could cause loneliness or depression (e.g. death of a friend, recent move from home to retirement home, etc.) are all great ways to start the conversation in detail.

As a starting point, share the results of the completed Three-Item Loneliness Scale. Use the common signs of depression list provided in this module to help you share any changes you have noticed in the person you care for. Beyond explaining who you are and the relationship you have with the person, offer details about your caregiving role and the support you provide.

Ask Questions

Are there reasons for the changes I am seeing in the person in my care? Health care professionals may want to figure out why someone’s mood and behaviour may have changed, especially if this change is something that has come on quickly.  They may review medications, ask about daily routine and habits, and may consider doing medical tests to understand more.

What support does the community have to offer? Health care professionals should know about geriatric teams and community programs that support social engagement, dining programs, different hobby clubs, and social workers or counsellors that are local to you. They will be able to tell you and the person in your care about these services and if they think a referral is needed.

Additional Supports

  • Ask a qualified health care professional who can lead you in the right direction. There is no one way to navigate the health care system. It is different depending on where you live and what you are looking to find. A good first step to finding the right services is to ask a qualified and trusted health care professional.
  • Look online: search for social engagement activities or services that support loneliness or depression by going online and browsing the Healthline, Health Services for Ontario website. Access the Healthline website at:
  • Call: To speak to a registered nurse for non-urgent health advice or for general health information, call Telehealth Ontario:  Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000; or Toll-free TTY: 1-866-797-0007. You can also learn more about their service by visiting their website: Get medical advice: Telehealth Ontario

Activity 7.3 – Watch

Watch Let’s Retire Loneliness (2:28) to see how the simplest question can mean the most to another person.

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