In celebration of the UN’s International Day for Older Persons, Louise Watson talks about how the new care models programme has enabled older people to have a voice and active participation in their health and wellbeing.
The theme of this year’s United Nations International Day for Older Persons on 1 October celebrates the talents, contributions and participation of older people in society.
The programme identified 50 vanguards to lead the development of new care models which will act as the blueprints for the NHS moving forward and the inspiration to the rest of the health and care system.
Together they address the needs of their local populations, identify opportunities to improve health and wellbeing, and bring health and care services together and closer to people’s homes in those communities.
One of the fundamental principles of the programme is to provide more personalised care, centred around the individual. Across the vanguards, we are empowering citizens to take greater control of their health and wellbeing, with the freedom to express their own life goals and share in decisions that affect them.
We see patients, many of whom are over the age of 65, and their carers, as experts of experience – as assets to our society not problems and we recognise that strengthening communities is at the heart of sustainable improvement – not a by-product – to the quality of life they enjoy.
We ensure the voice of the patient – the voice of our older citizens – is heard.
Our vanguards are finding innovative solutions and Wellbeing Erewash in Derbyshire is a shining example of this. Through its community resilience work, people are motivated to take greater ownership, control and understanding of their health and wellbeing – and participate in support networks across their communities.
Time Swap is a fantastic example of a scheme that allows people to offer their time and skills and receive time back from other people with different skills in return.
Hedge-cutting, DIY, dog walking, photography, cycling and computer skills are among some of their time swaps we have seen so far. This is helping many older people who have mental health issues, such as depression, that results from social isolation. It is also getting many residents more active again, which is again beneficial to their overall health.
In Nottinghamshire, the Principia Partners in Health vanguard set out to ensure care home residents have ‘a voice and a choice’.
An independent advocacy and ‘worry catcher’ service, provided by a third sector provider, has captured issues from residents and worked to resolve them. As a consequence, a mobile library is now stopping at care homes, a choice of meal times and food options is being provided, and sports events are being scheduled so residents can watch them on TV.
Dudley All Together Better vanguard is helping people living with respiratory conditions. Those people are often socially isolated by their condition which, in turn, can lead to depression and loss of identity. The vanguard, working with the local voluntary service, has introduced Air Time, which brings these people together to help them manage their conditions. Pulmonary rehabilitation and respiratory nurse support is included alongside opportunities to share experiences, and take part in activities that help their lung function, such as yoga and singing.
Vanguards also recognise the vital work of thousands of carers who help family members to manage long-term health conditions. Healthy Wirral, for example, has a team of ‘carer connectors’ who actively find and support carers. The carers are assessed briefly and then referred to existing public services, local third sector organisations and peer support groups for ongoing support.
In Flyde Coast, the vanguard’s consultation with residents on what health issues matter most to them discovered that they wanted GPs to have a better understanding of the impact of social isolation.
While on the Isle of Wight, the My Life a Full Life vanguard has local area co-ordinators who recognise that people with disabilities, mental health needs, older people and their families have expertise and strengths that can help them achieve their own vision for a ‘good life’. Co-ordinators help people identify how they want to improve their lives and helps them to achieve those goals by linking them to support in the community.
As life expectancy rises, we have to ensure our health and care services can be sustained. Helping our older citizens to be active participants in society, helping one another in social groups, and understanding how they can better manage their health and wellbeing is the future.
Find out more about how the vanguards are empowering people and their communities.