This blog follows on in our series entitled “it’s all about” where we will explore some moving and incredible stories of people who have moved closer to their vision of a good life and started making their contribution in their community.
All the stories are real, names and some details have been changed to ensure anonymity.
It’s all about…thinking whole
In this “it’s all about” blog we explore the importance of thinking whole in our work alongside people in communities. Our service system has evolved in a way that is often designed to “treat” individual problems as isolated concerns. This is really useful when someone has a clear and definable single issue that has a clear and definable solution, but as we know life is often much more complicated than that. Many of the contemporary challenges we face (loneliness, isolation, poor mental health etc.) are complex ones, fundamentally linked and dependent with so many other factors in our lives. This means that we really need to respond in ways that consider the whole picture of someone’s challenges in the context of their strengths, resources and aspirations for a better life.
Local Area Coordinators deliberately work in a way that sees the whole picture of someone’s health and wellbeing in the context of their network of family, friends and neighbours around them. They make the time to support people to identify their vision of a good life, build on their strengths and seek out the natural support of those around them. However, if necessary, Local Area Coordinators are alongside people if they do need formal support ensuring it is complementary to their vision of a good life. This is helped by the fact they are employed by councils and they have invested time in building positive relationships with their service colleagues as well as the communities they serve.
In Joan’s story we hear how she was able to get the care she needed with progressive vascular dementia whilst simultaneously building strong relationships with others and getting more involved in her community. We also hear how her Local Area Coordinator supported her and her family to ensure services were complementary with Joan at the centre.
Joan was 84 when she was introduced to Local Area Coordinator, Lisa. Joan was concerned that she had become isolated and wanted to build on her social connections in her community. When Lisa met Joan and her daughter Amy, she found her to be a chatty, energetic and affable lady. Joan explained to Lisa that she had always been an active person and enjoyed socialising and learning new skills. Amy explained that Joan would often forget things and so she had devised a large board with dates and appointments that Joan could look at every day. It was evident throughout the visit that Joan was struggling with her memory. They discussed various activities available in the community and Joan was keen to get involved in everything suggested. Lisa and Joan attended the local Mothers’ Union meeting at her local church and she was warmly welcomed by the members. They also attended a dance party where Joan chatted to other attendees and assisted by making sure everyone was supplied with tea and cakes. They went along to the monthly coffee morning at the Church and Joan socialised with old neighbours and friends she knew from past keep fit classes.
During this time, Amy (Joan’s daughter) let Lisa know that Joan had officially been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Having had experience of supporting people receiving this news and knowing how daunting and upsetting it could be, Lisa arranged to visit Amy at her home to offer advice and support in how to assist Joan in the future. She suggested that Amy request a Carer’s Assessment via Social Services and provided information about a small community day centre run by the Carers’ Centre. They contacted the centre together and arrangements were made for Amy to take Joan for an assessment the following week. They also discussed financial and legal matters such as Carer’s Allowance, Power of Attorney and Joan’s financial situation. Lisa continued to meet with Joan on a weekly basis to help her attend social events in the area, and kept in touch with Amy via email and telephone. Joan’s health continued to deteriorate and she was hospitalised over Christmas and New Year. Lisa visited her in hospital finding her content and chatty, but struggling to follow a long conversation and repeating herself. Joan’s dementia was progressing rapidly throughout her stay in hospital resulting in a psychiatric assessment concluding she would be unable to remain at home without 24-hour supervision. The painful decision was made by Amy to source a residential home for her mother. Joan has now settled well into a home nearby and receives regular visits from friends and family. Although upset by having to make this decision, Amy is content that her mother has the level of support needed to ensure she remains safe and happy in her new home.
Amy and Lisa remain in touch and Amy knows where she is if needed.