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Case study: Joyce and Laura's story

Joyce, age 78, has been supported by 20-year-old Royal Voluntary Service volunteer Laura Wightman.

"I tripped and fell whilst on Leicester High Street, and broke my left shoulder. It was right on the street and everyone was watching, which I found embarrassing. My shoulder is still quite painful even now but it’s getting much better, which is a relief.

"Laura was referred to me from Royal Voluntary Service, and came to see me when I was back at home after hospital. I’ve seen Laura four times now and she’s been so helpful in supporting me with the things I need. She’s such a lovely girl. It’s so nice of her to take time out of her busy life to help me. I was having real trouble with getting shopping, just to get food for the week, and Laura has taken me to the local Asda to help me get what I need. The local supermarket isn’t close by and as a single elderly person it’s really difficult to get shopping. It’s a bus ride away, and then you have to carry the heavy bags back, and while they may not seem too tricky, if you’re older and have an injury it can be nearly impossible.

"I’ve been taking physiotherapy classes every week since, but the accident has made basic tasks really tough. I think it’s also made me more isolated than I had been, I definitely feel more lonely being less physically independent. I don’t have any family or even any distant relatives, and I don’t have many friends, just one friend from within my housing complex. This means I rarely see people, and I don’t have any support from people for times like this when I need it.

"It’s really nice to be able to see someone every week. As I don’t have much company, so just having a cup of tea and a chat with someone regularly is a really positive addition to the week. It’s just a simple thing but it helps to build your self–esteem and confidence. Just going out for a walk is nice as you get a change of scenery. I spend a lot of time in my flat so it’s nice to get out sometimes.

"I feel more confident being able to perform the basic tasks that I took for granted before, like getting food out of a cupboard, or getting some groceries. I think if I hadn’t been for Laura I would have had to lean on social services, as there was a period of time when I just wasn’t able to be independent and just didn’t feel like I could be on my own."

Joyce, age 78, Home from Hospital client 

"The first thing that struck me about Joyce was her isolation; she is the only person I know who is without the support of family. She doesn’t have any relatives, so aside from a friend she has from her housing complex, she really has very little contact with people.

"I’ve been seeing Joyce for a couple of months now and it’s nice to be able to help her out while she needs it. She’s been having a lot of difficulties with her shoulder after her accident and it’s meant she just hasn’t been able to get out and about. Getting food shopping is something everyone needs to do, but she just wasn’t able to do it on her own.

"I know I only work with Joyce, but it feels like the support I provide to her, and the relationship we have, acts as a much-needed bridge between her carer and complete independence for her. Normal discharge from hospital would work fine for those who have a partner, family, or close friends nearby, but for those like Joyce who don’t have this support, volunteers like myself and those at Royal Voluntary Service help provide the practical and emotional support needed for when older people leave hospital. Joyce is now more confident and independent, and while there is definitely still progress to be made with her recovery, I think she’s in a better place now.

"I joined Royal Voluntary Service while at university and realised I was at a time in my life when I had more free time than I would always have - I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same. Volunteering with Joyce takes very little time out of my life, and it’s a lovely feeling to know you are helping to look after someone who is more vulnerable than yourself."

Royal Voluntary Service volunteer, Laura Wightman, age 20

"At Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group we feel very fortunate to be working with Royal Voluntary Service. We commissioned the Home from Hospital service to explore how we could improve the experience of discharge for some of our older and vulnerable patients and we have seen activity reductions and social investment benefits since. The results the CCG has seen in pounds and pence saved have gone above and beyond what was expected.

"Royal Voluntary Service and the CCG have developed an understanding about shared goals and ethos, which means we are able to have an open on-going dialogue, and refine the service to ensure it represents value for money and a quality service to patients. Royal Voluntary Service understands that as a CCG we need to ensure we are getting the best outcomes for patients, and their strong focus on performance data means that we have all the answers to the questions we need.

"Older patients who use the service will make a healthy, timely recovery in their own home, with the support they need. By placing a caring volunteer at the centre of the client’s recovery plan, we can dramatically improve their independence and resilience – and reduce their risk of readmission.

"We are delighted with the results, which prove the value of the service, and we hope to continue working with Royal Voluntary Service for as long as we can."

Jeremy Bennett, Strategy and Implementation Manager, Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group.

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