Mrs Bennet and Red Cross volunteer Janet

Breaking a bone can make everyday activities particularly tricky. Especially when it’s your dominant arm and you live alone. Just ask Mrs Bennet who badly broke her right arm last year.

But thanks to a close group of good friends and a little help from British Red Cross volunteer Janet Shaw, Mrs Bennet got the person-centred support at home she needed.

‘Everyone was so lovely’

“Because I am right-handed I found it very difficult to do even the simplest of things, like cutting fruit for my breakfast,” Mrs Bennet explained.

After being treated in Poole hospital for her broken arm, Mrs Bennet, who is in her eighties, was referred to the Red Cross’ support at home service.

“The very next day I had visits from the Red Cross, occupational therapists and carers all seeing how they could help me. It was so nice and everyone was so lovely.”

The Red Cross service provides six weeks of practical and emotional help to older or vulnerable people in Poole.

When we say vulnerable people, this includes people who have recently returned home from hospital, but may not have family or friends living locally to help them as they recover.

Weekly visits from a Red Cross volunteer can smooth the process of settling back into a normal routine at home and help people regain the skills and confidence they need to live independently.

Help from Janet

Janet, a retired care-worker from Broadstone, is a volunteer with the Red Cross. At first she visited Mrs Bennet every week.

“Mrs Bennet is a very independent lady and, despite her broken arm, was still managing quite a lot herself,” Janet said.

On Janet’s first visit they discussed what sort of help would be most beneficial. Our support at home service is tailored to the individual’s needs.

“Usually, we might offer to do a bit of shopping or collect prescriptions, but Mrs Bennet had friends to help with that. What she needed from me was a bit of help with things around the house,” Janet said.

It might not sound like much, but these types of small, non-medical interventions can make the world of difference to somebody’s wellbeing and recovery.

They can also be part of preventative care – meaning Mrs Bennet didn’t risk making her injury worse by attempting tasks she wasn’t fit to do.

Mrs Bennet added: “I was very surprised at how much help I was given.

“I really enjoyed Janet’s visits each week. While she ironed some clothes or changed my bedding, we would have a good chat. We built up quite a rapport.

“It was rather sad to say goodbye when the six weeks came to an end, but I am really grateful to have had the support when I needed it. The support at home service is wonderful.”

The world of difference

Small bits of help, like those given to Mrs Bennet, give people needing care the confidence to live independently in their homes and prevent further injuries – injuries that can require more expensive treatment or care at a later date and place greater strain on emergency services.

Today, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists released a report detailing how prevention and early intervention can make the world of difference between someone just receiving care, and someone being supported to live well.

Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: “With an increasing elderly population and decreasing budgets for care, as a society we must seek to do the best we can for everyone who needs care – not just the bare minimum.

“As this research shows, early intervention can help people stay in their own homes, continue with social activities – and save money in the longer term.

“Surely this is a no-brainer. It’s time to change the mind-set on care to treat the person, not a set of medical needs.”

The Red Cross understands the complexities of the health and social care sector, but believes cutting access to care is a false economy.

We’ve seen first-hand the effects of the funding gap with people unable to get home from hospital, or not having their basic needs met because there is no carer to help them.

While extra funding allocated in the spring budget is welcome, it’s not enough to help all the people who are already going without care.

And it’s not just about funding. As Mrs Bennet’s story shows, sometimes it’s the little things that make the world of difference. We need to do care differently, ensuring it is person-centred, preventative and integrated.

As the government prepares its green paper, it needs to look at how everyone who needs care – and those who will need it in the future – can not only live longer, but live well. Including people like Mrs Bennet.