IT’S hard to find the “good news” these days and it’s even worse as a doctor – our jobs are mostly problem-centred. However, this week, a consultation with one of my elderly patients really touched my heart and restored faith in what is an otherwise trying time. It gave me food for thought.

My patient had been discharged from hospital after a scary and very grim few weeks. With no family support and living alone, the return back home was frightening for her. I phoned her to check-in, to ensure she had all her medications and that support in place. In previous conversations, she’s always sounded quiet and sad, so I was surprised when she answered with a real cheer in her voice. I wondered what had changed.

“I came home to a wonderful surprise, doctor!” she said. It was lovely to hear her so excited. She went on to explain that her best friend of 50 years had spent the past few weeks redecorating the house for her return. This was something she’d wanted to do for years but had given up hope after her husband passed away. “It is simply perfect, just how I’d wished it could be,” she said. She was so animated and chatty – our conversation brought much-needed warmth to me.

It got me thinking about how much impact small acts of kindness can make. There are often times when we hear our loved ones speak of things they want or dream to do but we can gloss over them because life is busy. We take the little things for granted.

However, as the year starts to draw to an end, there is much fatigue in the air. Everyone is getting fed up and tired. We need to restore faith and hope again and actively try to bring back cheer.

At the start of the pandemic, acts of kindness played a significant role and this did help us get through. We cared for one another and checked in on each other. We clapped for our carers and we became more conscious of our collective needs. Over the past few months, however, there seems to have been a shift in our emotional capacity. The love and compassion we had seems to have been replaced with some anger and frustrations. I also feel quite helpless at times but we need to get through this and we need to help each other along the way.

The winter is a difficult time for many people, but as a GP, I see first-hand how detrimental the winter months can be for those most vulnerable in our society – our elderly.

Many over the age of 65 suffer from chronic health problems as well as loneliness and isolation. The cold weather can be more harmful for them as can all the nasty infections that circulate in the air. This year our elderly and most vulnerable have the added

risk of Covid. Let’s all make an extra effort this year to take care of those who need support the most.

So when I put the phone down I thought of all the little things that we can do that might make a difference. This can be anything from stepping up the number of times you call and check-in on your family, neighbours and friends to offering to do their shopping. Keeping warm is extremely important, especially for the elderly, so drop off some hot meals, hot water bottles, blankets and cosy things for them to enjoy. Lastly, follow the rules and keep your vulnerable loved ones safe and protected at all costs.

Connection and kindness is known to make a huge difference to our mental and physical wellbeing. We are in this together so let’s step up our efforts to care for one another and get each other through this next wave.