It seems incredible to think that Christmas is so close. This year has been eventful and incredibly busy for the charity; we have new trustees who have settled in quickly and thrown themselves into their new roles and with their added expertise we feel well equipped to face the challenges that the New Year will bring. Some of our staff have also changed their remit within the office and in exactly the same way have enthusiastically embraced their new roles.
Sally has developed the Home Help Service, which is already much more successful than we anticipated. The staff in the office continue to be busy and the profile of our clients continues to become younger. To answer this demand, some of our staff have received extra training to help guide those who are seeking support towards positive outcomes in their lives.
Transport continues to be a concern for the charity as we seek to meet the requests of our clients; we really do need more active drivers, so please think about joining us as a volunteer in this aspect of our work. You can read more about this below.
I would like to thank you for your continuous support and wish you and your families a really Happy Christmas and brilliant New Year.
With very best wishes,
Working To Ease Hospital Transport Problems – Can YOU Help?
Travelling to Torbay General Hospital if you do not have access to a car can, at times, seem nothing less than a nightmare. Indeed, Councillor Ged Yardy spoke recently about the difficulties faced by patients and relatives who need to make that journey. There is widespread recognition that for local people without their own transport, the journey is extremely difficult; 2- 3 hours each way on the buses, £80 return by taxi.
Dartmouth Town Council and energetic local, Jess Pinder, have been pushing for the restoration of the 111 service, or an extension to the 92 service. Jess and our Manager, Nick Hindmarsh joined Jonathan Hawkins earlier this month to speak to Devon County Council to seek their support.
However, as Nick has pointed out, there is already one solution which can help to ease the problem significantly. The charity runs a volunteer driver scheme that will take as many people as they can to health care outpatient appointments. Last year, their volunteers made over 1000 such journeys. This is a donation-based scheme that only asks you to pay what you can afford; £18 covers the driver costs to Torbay and back for example.
Over the past couple of years several of our volunteer drivers have ‘retired’ from active service and so the capacity of the charity to meet the need within the community has fallen by about 500 journeys a year. It used to be rare to turn down requests for lifts, now about half these requests cannot be matched with a driver, which is a source of considerable stress for all concerned.Kate Cooke, our transport co-ordinator, is desperately trying to meet the demand for lifts to the hospital and other medical journeys. She takes a real pride in her work and hates those calls when she has to tell a client that the charity just cannot supply a driver at that time.
While the local community waits for a bus solution, Dartmouth Caring is sending out a request for more volunteers to staff this essential scheme. If you are not in a position to volunteer yourself, perhaps you have a friend who would like to be involved; just one or two journeys a month would make a huge difference to those who depend on transport to reach their appointments. As few as 25 new drivers would allow the charity to fill this void and enable them to take visitors as well as patients. If you cannot do this, do you know someone who could?
To make matters worse, now there are no hospital beds locally, family members find it difficult to visit their family in hospital which can cause real distress. We want to be in a position to help alleviate this distress but again, this relies on more volunteers stepping forward.
Volunteer drivers receive a ferry pass, 45p per mile and training. However, speaking to current volunteer drivers their main motivation is spending time in the car, and at the hospital, talking to the clients, knowing they are appreciated and feeling a genuine sense of a job well done!
Year-Round Support Provided; But Rising to Meet the Greater Challenges of the Winter Months
Winter is a notoriously tough time for those who face certain challenges, for the elderly and infirm, the lonely and those whose life circumstances have led them to into difficult situations. As the complications of the season begin to mount up, the charity continues to provide its year-round support to those in need. The Wednesday and Thursday Lunch Clubs offer a welcome respite from the demands of shopping for and preparing a piping hot 3 course lunch. In addition, those who live alone have the opportunity to spend social time with friends and to share with our staff any concerns they may be facing.
The cold and increasing darkness can add to the confusion for those struggling with the limitations that dementia brings and the relief that sufferers and their carers can access through the weekly memory cafés, where a light lunch is available, and the specialist dementia support, is significant. Dementia is a lonely and debilitating disease and the isolation of winter adds another burden to families, which the team at the charity aim to address in a lively and positive manner.
As we move swiftly towards Christmas, activities are focused on the festive season, helping clients of the Memory Café to share in the celebrations, as well as focusing on past memories. On 10th December, Rowena from Dartmouth Library will join us and bring with her Christmas themed reading which we will share in a read aloud format. Our craft session that day will focus on making bird feeders to help support our feathered friends through the winter months. 17th December is a special day as it’s the Christmas music session, with carols, festive songs and warm mince pies. This is followed by Christmas lunch with all the trimmings – a day eagerly anticipated by all concerned!
Winter also sees a rise in medical appointments, both to the GP surgery and the hospital and therefore the necessity for increased transport capacity and the collection and delivery of prescription medication. Again, both of these services are core to our provision, but they come into sharper focus in the winter months, as does the necessity to check on those clients who live alone and become more vulnerable to seasonal viruses. Heating can be an enormous issue for those facing the difficulties of increased age and every winter we send out detailed information warning of the dangers of insufficient heat and giving hints and tips to help those who may be at risk and helping those who need to access further support.
In the same way, winter brings greater challenges for those who are trying to make sense of the benefit system, which can appear over-complicated and alarming to someone who is living on the edge of their resources. A significant amount of the charity’s time is now allocated to support this type of vulnerable client, helping them to complete the paperwork which will allow them to access the support that they need, travelling with them to appeals and ensuring that they have all that they need, not just for the tough winter season, but also the months ahead.
Sadly, the need for palliative and oncology care and support for relatives can also increase as the difficulties of the season bite; it is far easier to be positive and up-beat on a sunny summer day than when the gloom of a wet and cold afternoon is closing in. The charity provides this vital and relatively new service for our clients and their families, who often need to feel that someone is listening as the rest of the community rushes on its merry way towards the Christmas festivities.
Loneliness can be the overwhelming problem during the winter months when mobility, or the desire to venture out into the cold and wet becomes a greater issue. This is one of the reasons why the charity has been at the forefront of developing social prescribing in the town, working with a large number of local organisations and charitable groups to provide the infrastructure which will allow and encourage members of the community to become involved in various groups and activities. The benefits this type of interaction provides for the physical and mental well-being of those who have become isolated within the society are well-proven. In addition, our team of befrienders work hard to bring companionship and reassurance to those who face long hours alone and are therefore at risk of increasing isolation.
Dartmouth Caring expects to be exceptionally busy throughout the winter months, but it remains committed to the support and well-being of its clients, and however hectic managing the various demands become, the staff would not wish to be anywhere else.
And in the Season of Goodwill . . .
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