Support for working carers

Royal Voluntary Service Healthy & Happy Lives groups offer a lifeline for older people, as well as those who care for them. The charity has 45 groups running across Britain which support older people by engaging them in physical and mental exercise, as well as providing a chance to socialise and enjoy a hot meal in company.

For the last five years, Royal Voluntary Service has run a daily group at its Community Centre in Hanley, Stoke on Trent. For many attendees, it’s the only time they leave the house each week.

The group has proved a godsend for one attendee’s daughter, Emma.

45 year old Emma is a full-time lecturer and course manager at a college in Cheshire. She lives with her husband and two children, aged 7 and 9. Emma juggles this with caring for her mother, Kathleen, 84, who came to live with the family three years ago.

Kathleen has problems with her memory and is now a regular attendee at the Healthy & Happy Lives group in Hanley. The group has proved extremely beneficial to both Emma and her mother.

Emma says: “Whilst mum still has some independence - she can make a sandwich, has good personal care and knows when to take her medication – we didn’t feel she was able to stay living on her own.”

“However, as I work full-time and the children are out all day at school, even by moving in with us, mum would still be spending long periods of time alone. This made her feel very lonely and was having a noticeable impact on her mental state. It was a big concern for us all. We bought her a small dog to look after, who she loves and offers her some companionship – but mum’s a very bright lady. For her social interaction and stimulation is essential.”

“This is what attending the Healthy & Happy Lives group provides. It has made the world of difference to her – and me. I get great peace of mind knowing mum’s not sitting on her own in the house every day of the week. During the sessions mum gets to talk with others who are in a similar position. It has also given her a renewed sense of purpose and boosted her self-esteem as she provides support to those who are a bit further along in their dementia journey.”

“When mum comes home from the group she is visibly brighter, albeit a little tired after all the activities and chatting! There has been a marked difference. It also assures me to know she is getting a hot nutritious meal in the day, two days a week – something she would not be able to make for herself at home – and enjoying it in the company of others.”

“Royal Voluntary Service also helps me enormously by taking mum to medical appointments. These are pretty high in frequency and although I would like to be there with her, it’s just not possible to keep taking time off work. This service has been a real godsend. It’s such a relief to know mum is getting to her appointments and in good company.”

Kathleen agrees that being part of the group has been very beneficial to her health and wellbeing. Kathleen says: “I used to do all sorts. Nowadays, other than occasionally going for a walk near my home, I don’t get a chance do anything other than come to this group. I really enjoy the exercises and quizzes we do, as well as the warm company. I think playing these games and doing these exercises is really helpful to my memory and health.”

Volunteer, Martin 54, helps out at the group several days a week and witnesses first-hand the positive impact on attendees and their families.

Martin says: “I’ve been volunteering with the group for 12 months – providing help where it is needed – from encouraging members to do a little gentle exercise to just talking and socialising with them. Everyone in the group is very happy. Of course, they can have their good and bad days, but it’s clear attending the group makes an enormous difference to them. They all say what a nice day they have had and how much they have enjoyed it. For attendees’ carers or family members, it is a relief to know their loved ones are in good company and being socially active. I’m really happy to be part of it.”

To help Royal Voluntary Service continue to offer these vital local services for older people, and to give some respite for carers, please follow Simplyhealth on LinkedIn. For each new follower between 1st December 2017 and 6th January 2018, Simplyhealth will give £1 to Royal Voluntary Service, up to £10,000.

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