Breaking the mould of loneliness

As one of the New Models of Care Vanguards – Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group – is tackling social isolation.  In the latest of a series of blogs on the vanguards, the Chief Executive of Age UK Wakefield District, explains their role and their commitment to making a difference for older people through their ‘Pull up a Chair’ campaign:

“I enjoy it better than being in my own house where I was living alone. My son was abroad in Australia and I was on my own.  I used to have visitors but I definitely think it is so nice here and I’m a bit of a home-bird myself but I have really enjoyed coming here”. (A Wakefield resident’s reflections after moving into a Supported Living setting.)

Elderly patient care is being transformed in the Wakefield area through our partnership working and enhanced health in care homes vanguard.

We have established the principles of placing people at the heart of everything we do. We have learnt the value of listening to the voices of older people when planning their care and support, and we have learnt the value of working with others across the health and social care landscape to create better outcomes for our older people in our communities.

Systems and processes will always be in place when delivering care, but if we are to truly put the person at the centre of their care we need to do more than work together, we need to listen.

‘Pull up a chair’ is a community campaign that has been developed to ensure that we give space for people to tell their stories, to make the time to listen to them and allow them to change the way we all live.

It allows older people a space to talk, to share and reflect on their lives, taking care beyond medicines and professional direction.

We want to understand the experience of ageing in this context and, through the new care models programme, respond to what we hear and bring about positive change.

Earlier this year the new care models team’s site visit to Wakefield endorsed our approach. We are all committed to improving the way we work, recognising the skills and commitment across all various sectors brought together well will improve the lives of older people in care settings.

Nationally, it is known that 1 in 10 people over 65 feel intensely lonely. Loneliness has been equated to smoking and obesity as linked to premature death. Two fifths of all older people say that television is their main company.

We know that in order to enable older people to live well we need to provide more than medical care. Empowering individuals to make their own choices is critically important if we are to enable older people to live well.
Age UK directly influences how care is managed within the Wakefield district through our NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group vanguard.

We consider the person holistically – medical, housing, care home and social needs, are brought together around the person.

Through the many interviews we have carried out through Pull up a chair, we see how this sea-change in delivery is making a difference to our older residents.

We are aiming to break the mould of loneliness and fragmented care by joining up services for older people in supported housing and care homes. GPs, health workers and specialist voluntary sector workers will be involved in making sure residents in care homes and supported living schemes have their health and social care needs met and are helped to make use of activities in their local community.

This is what happens when you ‘Pull up a chair’ and listen:

“If I don’t need anything I still go into town for a walk. You meet people, people I’ve known for years and then I come back in here, have half an hour in the lounge before I go get my dinner ready”.  (A Wakefield resident’s thoughts after being supported to live in their own home.)

Paula Bee

Paula Bee is Chief Executive of Age UK Wakefield District.

Throughout her career in the health and voluntary sectors Paula has developed a passion for changing the lives of older people, recognising that we all have an important part to play if this is to become a reality.

Training as a physiotherapist involved her in the well-being of older people. Now, as Chief Executive of Age UK Wakefield District and member of the Age England Association Executive Group, she has been fortunate to be at the forefront of local and national changes that have the potential to alter the experience of ageing for us all.

At Age UK Wakefield District, Paula is responsible for ensuring the changing needs of older people are met throughout the district. Integration into the new model of care has brought Age UK some fresh challenges but has significantly improved the service it provides. As a result it is able to place the expertise gained over many decades alongside other health and social care professionals to significantly alter and improve the lives of older people.

Paula also chairs the Wakefield Assembly (the local voluntary and community sector board for voice and influence), and is on the board of Nova (the support agency for voluntary and community groups in Wakefield district). In addition, she is a member of the local Health and Wellbeing Board and part of Wakefield Provider Alliance.