17 November 2020

I used to see my grandchildren all the time – but this year has left me isolated, depressed and lonely

17 November 2020

The problem…

“Until 20 months ago, I was one of the fittest 72-year-old men around. I used to have my four grandchildren over to my house every weekend. I used to take them out and play football with them and I was really enjoying life.

“Then the doctor told me I had high blood pressure and decided I needed medication. I have tried five different types of blood pressure tablets at different times and they completely changed me. I was exhausted the whole time and had no energy to see and play with my grandchildren anymore. I felt like an old man, and if I tried to explain to the doctor how I felt, he said I’d just have to get used to them and stop moaning!

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“So, I decided to stop taking them and lose weight. I soon started to feel better – but then came the coronavirus and I feel I’ve lost everything. I live on my own and see no one anymore, because my daughter thinks I’m at risk and won’t bring the children near me. How I would love to play with my grandchildren again, but as long as this goes on, there is no chance.

“I feel this virus, plus the problems I’ve had, have destroyed my life and that there’s no point in going on any more.”

Fiona says…

“It’s a great shame that your health problems and the coronavirus are preventing from seeing your grandchildren. Your daughter obviously cares about you and is worried that the children – who are, presumably going to school and interacting with others – will infect you. As tough as it is, she is trying to keep you safe because she loves you.

“This is all still extremely hard though. You appear to have taken yourself off the medication – and it does sound as if your GP was less than sympathetic about the side-effects you were experiencing. I would really encourage you, though, to go back and perhaps see a different doctor.

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“If you’ve lost weight and changed your diet, then hopefully you may have brought your blood pressure down – but it’s important that it’s properly monitored by a health professional. If you’ve become less active this year, as so many have, there is a chance it may have gone up even more, so do get it checked.

“I can quite understand how you will feel depressed and lonely. So many people are feeling the same way. Loneliness and depression are two of the horrible side-effects of this pandemic that are only now beginning to be counted, and with everything that is happening in the world, it is all too easy to feel hopeless.

“Researchers have found in some studies that almost half the people polled have felt the pandemic has harmed their mental health. When you’re suffering from depression – and from your email, I believe you possibly are – life can feel overwhelmingly bleak. As bleak as it feels though, please do remember that things can, and will, get better – and you are not alone.

I would encourage you to talk to your doctor about how hard you're finding things...

“When you speak to your doctor about your blood pressure and coming off your medication, I would encourage you to talk to them about how hard you’re finding things too, because depression can equally be an illness – and one that can be treated. That may or may not involve medication, but there are certainly many things that can help – including self-help measures.

“We are social creatures and these months of social distancing and sheltering at home have clearly left you feeling isolated and lonely. Being cut off from the love and support of our families is hideous and we need to find new ways of interacting with them. You may not be able to play with your grandchildren or even be with them physically, but could you set up video calling with them? Could you even find ways of playing online games with them? Seeing people – even if through a computer screen – is so much better than just hearing their voices, so please try and explore some of these options.

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“There are services out there that can help you too – contact your local council to see what befriending options are available, for example. If nothing appeals to you there, contact Age UK (their advice line: 0800 678 1602) as could match you up with a befriending volunteer. And please remember, if you ever feel very low and need somebody to talk to, judgement-free, you can call Samaritans for free at any time of day or night (116 123).

“Eventually, this pandemic will pass and life will pick up again. You will be seeing your grandchildren again, so I really hope that when you do, you are still as fit, active and healthy as possible so you can enjoy their company.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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