Disabled Watford woman suffers chronic loneliness from pandemic

A woman who is both deaf and blind and has shielded since the start of the pandemic has opened up about her “overwhelming sense of isolation”.

Christine Punt, 70, from Watford is classed as deafblind – a combination of sight and hearing loss – and has had to heavily depend on her husband over the past year since the pandemic.

With her care reduced and increased pressures for her husband George to care for her, she said the pandemic is taking a toll on their relationship and has left her feeling frustrated and isolated.

Ms Punt said: “I feel an overwhelming sense of isolation all the time, I have spent weeks at a time in bed.

“I have felt more aware of my disability throughout the pandemic, and I get frustrated as I cannot rely on support in the same way.”

A new study by disability charity Sense has found that nearly two-thirds of disabled people are experiencing chronic loneliness during lockdown.

The number is even higher among young disabled people – at 70 per cent.

It has sparked fears of a mental health crisis facing the population of 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK, after the charity said cases of loneliness has jumped by a quarter in the last year for those who were already disproportionately affected by the issue prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Of the 1,011 disabled people surveyed between the January 20-22 this year, 37 per cent said they were chronically lonely before the pandemic, rising to 54 per cent for 16 to 24-year-olds.

Nearly two-thirds – 61 per cent – of disabled people said they were now chronically lonely, after they described feeling lonely “always” or “often”.

The charity said feelings of chronic loneliness “go on for a long period of time”, whereby people suffer “constant and unrelenting feelings of being alone, separated or divided from others, and an inability to connect on a deeper level”.

The study also found a third of disabled people had less than an hour of interaction with someone else each day.

Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense, said: “Throughout the pandemic the needs of disabled people have been overlooked, and they have often felt forgotten.

“The government must recognise the severe impact the pandemic is having on disabled people and improve the support available, so they are not left isolated and cut off from society.”

Sense is encouraging the public to sign its pledge calling for more investment in services to tackle loneliness and offer mental health support for disabled people.

For more information on the campaign, visit: www.sense.org.uk/LeftOutOfLife

Hillingdon Times | News