Let me start by sharing what for many may be a familiar story. Julian, a good friend of mine, has faced the massive challenge of trying to support both his parents as they became increasingly frail – his dad physically and his mum mentally – but were desperate to remain at home. Add to this the fact that Julian lives 150 miles away, and it quickly gets tougher. But that’s not the biggest challenge.
For Julian, me and many of our generation the main problem is we spend days and even weeks trying to understand how best to support our ageing parents; working out how to navigate the complex map of an increasingly fragmented, and resource starved, system. And without any training on how to do this. I also find myself feeling more often like a 15 year old when it comes to trying to raise, let alone discuss, these sensitive topics with my parents.
Another friend, Chris, is struggling to support his father who is in hospital after falling and fracturing his pelvis. The acute care he is receiving is great but, one week later, Chris is still struggling to find the right person to talk to about his dad’s discharge, let alone start to get the right things in place. And trying to do any of this by phone is a nightmare.
Seniors generally prefer to take care of themselves, avoid being a burden to others and want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. Little in the way the system works today truly responds to these preferences.
Independent Living Advisers, a social enterprise based in Kent is the result of the above.
At the core of the service are our Advisers, who are dedicated, local experienced healthcare professionals – not young, well-meaning, living wage carers often forced by the system to only be able to do half a job that they know is really needed.
The aim of the service is to work with our clients, and usually the family, to develop and implement a support plan tailored to their unique needs. There are lots of elements that go to making life independent, happy and healthy – and ILA seeks to cover them all. These include physical, mental and emotional well-being as well as a range of practical but very important matters. Then we make it happen by organising everything and visiting over the weeks, months & years to check all is well and to adjust things as needed, building a long-term trusted relationship between the client and his/her Adviser.
The service is aimed primarily at two groups of people. The first is those who are frail or who recognise that things will get tougher and want to put arrangements in place now to help support a happy, comfortable and full life, and reduce the risks of crisis. Sadly, many of us stick our heads in the sand or avoid difficult conversations within the family, so the second group is those for whom crisis has struck and the need is for intensive support to help get them home from hospital and back up on their feet.
In both of these cases the pressure on the NHS is reduced, be it through fewer demands on GPs and A&E or helping to free beds after hospital stays.
We believe that Independent Living Advice can provide much needed peace of mind, improve quality of life, and save time and money – for both the older person and their family. With an ILA Adviser on their team the family can know that the right things will be put in place by an expert who knows how to navigate the system, that risks of a crisis will be reduced and that their loved one(s) can continue to live independently at home, saving the costs of residential care.
Independent Living Advisers (www.ILA.life) is up and running in Kent. I would love to hear your experiences on supporting your loved one(s), your views on our ILA service and whether we should aim to expand to other parts of the country.
MD – Independent Living Advisers