Staying independent in old age is incredibly important to your health and well being. Call me perceptive, but people don’t really want to be ill, do they? Young or old, they’d rather be bouncing a ball around or bouncing their grandchildren around, given the choice.
It’s a less-than-jaw-dropping observation. But it has implications.
The funding of health and social care is much in the news. Alongside the money issue, health professionals increasingly talk about prevention.
It’s a key focus of the new coalition led by the St Martin’s Trust, which is looking at homelessness in Norwich, for example. Equally, it’s a major driver for those supporting the elderly.
City GPs – through their clinical commissioning group, deserve huge credit for imaginatively backing and funding, some groundbreaking work by Age UK Norwich over several years now. Based on a model pioneered in Cornwall, it has involved health professionals with appropriate permission alerting the charity to individual older people who were at risk of going into hospital, if something didn’t change, or suggesting people who were just starting to need support.
Through its ‘Promoting Independence’ programme, the charity then spent a focused 12 weeks with the individual, talking to them about what might improve their health and well-being, then supporting them to make it happen.
I mention it now because the charity where I’m a very junior trustee, has with its typical energy and ambition, just thrown that work up in the air.
No, nothing’s stopped. But, with new funding (again from the CCG), it has pulled together a more flexible package of help.
The Community Support team’s manager, Charlotte Kippin, told me:
“The old project was extremely successful, but it wasn’t right for everyone. Sometimes focused support to improve health is needed. But sometimes what the person needs is just some social visits. Or perhaps someone has lost their confidence, become anxious about leaving the house. In that case, we can offer a ‘befriender’ to go for a regular coffee with the client, or accompany them to social activities until they find their feet. It’s all about helping them to stay independent in old age.”
Clients can refer themselves but are being referred to the popular service by community nurses, doctors and social workers, as well as by friends and family. Currently just over 100 are being helped with 20 to 25 new referrals are arriving each month.
What interests me most, here, is that it reminds us all how little it sometimes takes to change a life and in so many areas, early intervention is the key.
For more information, call the charity on 01604 496333, or visit the Age UK Norwich