Care in the community is helping older people live independent lives

Roy Richardson and daughter Julie Hughes, with Coun Tracey Dixon.
Roy Richardson and daughter Julie Hughes, with Coun Tracey Dixon.

A new system of helping older people remain independent in their communities has been hailed as paying dividends for residents in South Tyneside.

Using a ‘Let’s Talk Together’ approach, staff work with individuals and focus on their strengths and resources in the community to help people live better lives.

By exploring in detail a person’s specific situation, advice and support can be offered to maximise independence.

Among those who have already reaped the benefit of the new method are Julie Hughes and her 83-year-old dad Ronald Richardson, who has Alzheimer’s.

Julie contacted Adult Social Care to explore respite care for her dad when her whole family went away to celebrate her 60th birthday.

She said: “I wanted to wrap him up and put him in respite care where I knew he would be safe, but after talking to the team, I realised that wouldn’t work as he is active and needs to be kept in his routine.

“Their help meant a great deal to me and I was able to relax and enjoy my holiday.”

Instead, social care staff drew on the strengths of the community as well as technology to keep Ronald safe.

A neighbour agreed to check on him, while shopkeepers were asked to remind him that his daughter was away on holiday.

A door sensor was also installed, which alerted the community warden service if he left the house at unusual times.

Julie’s step-daughters also stepped in to offer additional support.

She said: “Dad finds it hard to cope with changes in his routine and anything unusual happening in his life.

“But as long as he is kept in his little bubble, then he is happy in his own home.”

The new way of working means more people are being helped without formal support.

In turn, resources can be more effectively targeted at those most in need.

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “One of the key characteristics of South Tyneside is its close-knit communities.

“By harnessing that desire to look after one another, we can maximise independence and help people to live longer and better lives.”