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My2020: 'I am so angry at those who have breached the Covid rules'

Don is in his 80s and lives alone. He and his befriender Dana discuss a tough year.

Befriender

As the country faces further restrictions in the face of the third wave of Covid-19, we hear from Don Smith who is in his 8os and lives alone. He uses the services of the charity ALONE and his ‘befriender’ is Dutch woman, Dana.

She visits Don regularly and the two have become great friends because of the process. Below, Don shares his thoughts on his 2020 and Dana discusses their friendship:

Don

I WILL BE spending Christmas alone again, the loneliest time of the year. I am 83, have a serious heart condition and I am angry.

A widower for 12 years, I live alone and I made a new life for myself. I have no relatives nearby and am mostly self-sufficient. My arthritic back and knee make walking more than a short distance impossible. 

The first lockdown was difficult, but I got through it – thanks to my ALONE befriender, Dana. She is in her twenties and a wonderful person.

Without her weekly one-hour visits to look forward to, I would have become very depressed. She has visited me for three years and will be my lifelong friend!

The reason I am angry is that many people have been breaking the Covid rules and regulations with impunity. Large numbers of people are still holding house parties and ignoring other rules.

These people are not only stupid but also selfish, putting people like me at risk. There should be a law against it with large fines for the guilty.

Most people have observed the guidelines but several have become complacent. Our government must deal with them ASAP.

Dana de Moel, Don’s befriender

I am one of the very lucky people with a close family, loving partner and large circle of friends. Christmas has always been enjoyable for me and even though it looks a little different this year due to Covid-19, I am still very much looking forward to the festive season ahead. 

I’m 28, originally from The Netherlands and have been volunteering with ALONE for the past three years. Due to my work with the charity, I am very aware of what Christmas is like for those who aren’t in this same fortunate position.

Every ad on TV shows families sharing delicious meals, restaurants and shops bustling, and happy Christmas music on the radio on repeat. If you are feeling lonely and isolated, all of these things are constant reminders.

Loneliness is especially prevalent this Christmas for those who have already had a year of limited contact with loved ones due to the pandemic.

The older person I visit once a week, Don, suffers from loneliness. With no family in Ireland and a widower, Christmas is the hardest time of the year for Don.

Admitting that you are lonely and reaching out to ALONE takes courage, and Don had that courage which led to our meeting three years ago.

We were quickly matched up through the ALONE befriending program and the rest is history! Don always says to me ‘’I wish I did it sooner!’’ and would be the first person to say how much my weekly visits mean to him. 

Giving back

As you can imagine, it is extremely rewarding to know you are making such a positive difference in someone’s life. Volunteering is a big reason why I have an even greater appreciation for the people in my life and would recommend it to anyone looking to give back.

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We all go through tough times and it is people who help us through them. I urge people to check in with those in their community during this time.

Many older people may have been expecting visitors and that could now be cancelled. Calling a friend who might be feeling lonely or assisting with small practical supports where possible such as shopping for an elderly neighbour, all make a difference.

There are many ways to support someone you care about this holiday season. If you are feeling lonely, remember that this feeling is not forever. Talk to someone you trust or reach out to a support organisation for a friendly chat.

The ALONE National Support Line is available seven days a week from 8 am – 8 pm on 0818 222 024. It is open throughout Christmas. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

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Befriender

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