Tydfil Wood was more used to caring for others than being the one cared for. As a former district nurse in Rhondda, Wales, she had looked after many people in her community over the years – even earning herself the nickname Sister Wood.
But after the death of her husband, life became a lot lonelier for the retiree. Tydfil found herself spending a lot more time alone at home.
“I would receive visits from the family but getting out independently was a problem,” Tydfil said.
She could no longer drive because of her arthritis and eventually lost her confidence to go out altogether.
Her daughter Gaynor was concerned. But when she came across a British Red Cross project called Positive Steps, she thought it might be just what her mum needed.
Tydfil moved into a self-contained annexe at Gaynor’s home near Merthyr Tydfil to be closer to family. But Gaynor felt she still needed more interaction with the outside world.
“I was worried that mum was spending a lot of time just watching TV, reading books or doing crosswords,” Gaynor said.
The Positive Steps project she came across is delivered by the Red Cross and funded by Land Rover UK.
Red Cross volunteers provide practical and emotional support to many older people in rural locations, who may be struggling to live alone following a personal crisis.
Janet Morgan is one of these volunteers – and she was the one who went to meet Tydfil.
When Janet met Tydfil she encouraged her to come up with some goals which would help to build her confidence and independence.
Starting small, they set out to find a new hobby Tydfil would enjoy. It turned out she used to be a keen knitter. Janet encouraged her to pick up her knitting needles once again.
“I used to knit as a child,” Tydfil recalled.
“My father had a colliery accident and his leg was amputated from the knee. It was my job to knit knee stumps for him.
“Because of my arthritis I didn’t think I would be able to hold the needles – but I can and its actually good exercise for my hands.”
Janet continued to visit Tydfil regularly to help her progress towards her goals. Next she encouraged her to try venturing outside with Gaynor.
Back in December, Gaynor took Tydfil to a Christmas lunch in the local community – which Tydfil thoroughly enjoyed.
But Tydfil’s biggest test came in February this year when it was time to try venturing out alone.
Janet arranged for her to be taken by taxi to a tea-dance in the local town. Tydfil had a great time.
“It was nice to have time to socialise,” she said.
“I’m always surprised that there are other people who have more difficulties than me. It puts it into perspective really.”
It was the first time Tydfil had venture out alone in years – and was the sign of new things to come.
Full of confidence
Tydfil’s confidence has grown so much that she now attends a local day centre each week for a ‘knit and natter’ with other members. She is enjoying her new re-found freedom.
“I used to feel lonely,” Tydfil said.
“When Gaynor was at work I could spend hours alone. Now I feel much better in myself.
“My memory isn’t what it used to be but by going outside and meeting new people, I’m enjoying making new memories.”
Gaynor is also very pleased with the changes in her mum:
“Janet’s visits have given mum the little nudge she needed to regain her confidence.
“She would never have had the confidence to get in a taxi by herself but now she is much more independent.”
Be like Janet
Tydfil’s progress wouldn’t have been possible without Janet.
We are currently looking for more volunteers to help transform the lives of more people just like Tydfil.
- Find out more about our support at home work in the UK