Befriending service helping more people in need to live independently

A befriending service for older people in Kincardine and Deeside has so far helped nearly 20 people in the area to live independently.

This is in their own home and has led to them spending less time in hospital.

Kincardine & Deeside Befriending was funded with money from the Aberdeenshire Change Fund to pilot a Befriending at Hospital project in Kincardine Community Hospital and Glen of Dee Hospital.

This pilot was developed and delivered in close cooperation with the NHS and Aberdeenshire Council Care Management. It was set up to reduce delayed discharge and to support older people to maintain their independence at home after they left hospital.

It was anticipated that being introduced to a befriender when still in hospital would lessen patients’ anxiety about returning home because they know that they will continue to get regular visits from a familiar person.

This was to be done by matching a volunteer befriender to older patients in the hospitals who are ready to be discharged, but have few social networks and lack confidence to return home.

Volunteers would visit them regularly in hospital and at home after discharge, offering ongoing emotional and practical support

May, an 84-year old beneficiaryn said: “Going home after weeks in hospital was quite scary. I was very anxious about how I would cope at home but my befriender, Linda, was an enormous help. She did my messages, took me shopping and so forth but the most important thing was that there was someone whom I could trust, who cared about me and who listened to me.”

A total of 17 clients benefitted from 388 befriending visits while 14 carers had a total of 708 hours of short respite breaks.

Patients, their carers, care management and GPs all confirmed the befriending service had made the transition from hospital back home less worrying and less stressful.

No patient was re-admitted to hospital within four weeks of discharge and all but two have remained living independently in the community.

GPs also reported that the befriending service has made a positive contribution to the overall health and wellbeing of their patients and they have noticed a reduction in the number of medically unnecessary GP visits after the take up of the befriending service.

The volunteers have come from all walks of life and most of them are older people themselves. The oldest volunteer on this project is 74 years old.

Volunteers were recruited by various means, including displays, advertisements and word of mouth. Potential volunteers complete an application form and attend an interview. All have to be a member of the PVG scheme, provide references and complete a 12-hour introduction to befriending course.

Brigitte Matthews, Kincardine & Deeside Befriending’s senior co-ordinator, said: “We are very fortunate to have volunteers with a variety of skills and experiences and an unfailing commitment to our cause of reducing loneliness and isolation in older people. Befrienders have gone out of their way to reduce older patients’ anxiety to return from hospital and help them settle back and stay in their home.”