We recognise that for older people, periods of transition can be a crucial time where they risk increasing frailty and isolation. This case study illustrates our early preventative work, demonstrating the difference made by getting to someone at the right time and helping them access the right services.
During a meet and greet with sheltered housing tenants facilitated by one of our host Housing Associations, we met Mrs A. Mrs A had just moved into the area and was unfamiliar with her new surroundings. She was also suffering from worsening eyesight and had been registered blind.
Our practitioner carried out an initial one to one assessment with Mrs A and discovered that, at the heart of everything, was her loneliness. She told us that she loved company but felt restricted by her eyesight. When discussing her mental health, she was able to articulate her low mood in a particularly poignant statement; “You put on the TV and you don’t see it, you’re just sitting waiting for a phone call”. Mrs A was tearful in these first meetings when she spoke about her loneliness and low mood.
As part of our approach, we ask older people to place themselves on a scale for up to 11 areas of their life. We then assign a numerical value to this scale. Mrs A scored particularly low in the areas of “Networks”, “Access to Information” and “Control and Choice in My Life”, scoring just 2.3 out of a possible 10 on average for each of these areas. She also placed herself in the midpoint for “Mental health and Wellbeing” scoring 5 out of 10.
A home befriending service would normally be ideal for a socially isolated older person with health concerns but, using our asset based approach we were able to recognise Mrs A’s resilience and desire to do more and with our strong network of third sector contacts in the city, we were able to find and link Mrs A into the OPALS project delivered by Visibility. This service provides one to one sight guided support to people over 55 experiencing sensory impairment to help build their confidence in getting our and participating in everyday activities. They also run social groups where people in similar situations can meet in a social environment.
Three months after becoming involved in our service, we carried out a review with Mrs A where we discussed the same aspects of her life as were covered in the initial assessment. After 8 weeks with her sight guide, Wilma, we saw positive movement in most aspects of her life. In particular, the three areas of “Networks”, “Control and Choice in My Life” and “Access to Information” saw particular improvement with a new average score of 8.7, a 64% increase. She also placed her “Mental Health & Wellbeing” score at 8, showing a 30% improvement.
We now know that Mrs A is actively participating in various activities and social groups around her home area with a view to participating in more in the near future.
Mrs A had a few things to say on the changes in her life:
“I could not have got myself out of the dark place without visits from Wilma [OPELS sight guide]”
“My mind has improved immensely.”
“I used to be slower to seek help but now my mind is sorted out, I wouldn’t lie and wait now, I would use my tongue and seek help.”
“I think the world’s my oyster now. I feel there are options now.”