Guest post by Marie Hayes, British Red Cross Operations Director for West Scotland
The people of Scotland are living longer these days which is something to celebrate. But as our population of older people grows, it presents us with a challenge. How do we provide sustainable care for those who need it?
Helping people to live as independently as possible in their own homes and within their own communities for as long as possible is one of our British Red Cross core activities. Last year in Scotland we supported more than 25,000 people to continue to live in their own homes.
Having control and choice in our lives is something we all value. As we get older though, life can become more challenging. But that shouldn’t automatically mean we have to leave everything – and everyone – we know behind.
Sometimes, f all someone needs is a bit of assistance to maintain a degree of independence and to stay in their own home then, surely, it makes sense on many levels to provide that help.
Given the choice, most of us would prefer the comfort of our own home and the familiarity of our own community to a hospital ward or a care home. Enabling people to do this benefits not just the individual – it helps ease the pressures on the NHS.
The Red Cross operates Rapid Response Services across Greater Glasgow, Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire. The service combines supported patient transport with follow-up help to deliver assistance to older people being discharged from Accident & Emergency, discharge lounges and associated wards.
The primary aim of the work is to help prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital and promote resettlement at home through the provision of practical and emotional support.
Last year in Greater Glasgow, we transported and supported 1,100 patients – which meant that 669 people avoided being admitted to hospital. In North Lanarkshire, the service helped 285 patients, 263 of whom avoided hospital stays. And to date, since the service was launched in Ayrshire at the end of last year, it has helped 917 people with 112 avoided admissions.
Highly trained staff deliver these services but the Red Cross also has around 6,000 dedicated volunteers working in communities across Scotland, many of whom are involved in helping older or vulnerable people maintain their independence.
Central to this is a personalised approach. Whether it’s helping someone to do their shopping, to attend social events or providing a bit of company at lonely moments, our volunteers provide the specific support that people want and need.
It’s that spirit of volunteering – the simple desire to help others – that we need to harness now and for the future.
We don’t know how long or how effectively the public purse will be able to fund care services for the constantly growing number of older people. We need to look at ways of engaging with communities and encouraging them to help the vulnerable people around them.
Just being a good neighbour, keeping an eye on someone who needs help, is of great value. With the support and resources of volunteer based organisations even more can be achieved to help people stay at home.
At some stage, we’re all going to need a little help from our friends.