How a friendly face can really help

It was recently revealed more than 35,000 people across Lancashire are lonely or socially-isolated.

Tuesday, 14th June 2016, 1:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:20 pm
Lorraine Oxley, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, at Trinity Hospice
Lorraine Oxley, Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, at Trinity Hospice

Experts say more than 22,000 households are affected within the county and research has shown it to be as harmful as smoking.

But Trinity Hospice is taking action to try to tackle the issue, with one of its newest services – its neighbour scheme.

The scheme has been running for just over a year, supporting patients and their carers in their own homes.

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It aims to help prevent the social isolation which can be a result of serious illness.

Trinity says when people are ill and can’t get out and about, and are unable to do things they used to, they can become cut-off from activities outside.

And for some people, former friends and neighbours start to drift away when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness – often because friends feel embarrassed and are worried about saying the ‘wrong’ thing, so they just avoid contact – ironically, volunteers at the hospice say, at a time when the person who is ill needs companionship more than ever.

The scheme is part of Trinity’s work in the wider community, not just at the hospice itself on Low Moor Road, in Bispham.

Volunteers will be ‘matched’ with a patient, who is isolated due to illness. The volunteers visit regularly and can take them out, just sit and chat, take the dog for a walk or help around the house.

They can give a few hours respite to a family member who is juggling the responsibilities of caring with a job and or family.

One of those to benefit from the scheme is Joan, from Warton. The Gazette has been asked not to use Joan’s surname due to her situation.

Joan she was previously a day therapy patients at Trinity, and has been getting visits every week from a volunteer Hospice Neighbour, Jenny, who has been volunteering at Trinity for eight years.

Although Joan has support from her family, her daughter lives in Manchester and having Jenny take her out has provided daughter Gail with some worry-free time.

Gail said: “It’s a fantastic service that’s been created.

“Mum absolutely loves spending time with Jenny going to the Garden Centre or out for afternoon tea or just sitting chatting together. They get on so well.

It’s someone different for Mum to talk to, not a member of the family, and when Mum is with Jenny I know she is safe and happy.

“It’s quality time spent together away from doctors and hospital appointments.

“She looks forward to Jenny’s visit each week. It’s been invaluable to us.”

According to Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, those at risk of loneliness include single people, people recently widowed or going through a retirement, ill, disabled or hard of hearing.