Over the next 20 years the number of people aged 65 and over living in the UK is expected to grow ten times faster than overall population growth. The potential implications of these statistics are daunting, particularly the increased pressures this will put on already stretched health and social care services.
Research has shown that over 65’s already account for just under a quarter of all Accident & Emergency attendances, but within that they account for almost half of the attendances by ambulance, half of the admissions to wards from A & E, and three quarters of the deaths in A & E. Increasing numbers of older people are also experiencing loneliness and isolation. Not only is this unpleasant for them, but it also correlates to increased health risks in the form of hypertension and worsening mental health, as well as increased unnecessary (and expensive) accessing of GP and A&E services, and hospital admissions.
In response to these challenges, we developed CareLink, an innovative service offering free telephone befriending to frail and vulnerable people over the age of 50. Clients can receive phone calls from our local trained volunteer befrienders, up to 5 days a week. Through recent CCG funding we have extended this by offering additional support to some of our more vulnerable clients through signposting and referring to other agencies including health, social care and social opportunities, and supporting them to engage with these.
Ann’s story is a good example of the impact CareLink can make on someone’s life. Ann is 80 years old and suffers with back problems, high blood pressure, memory loss, arthritis and diabetes. She has very limited mobility and is frail.
Ann’s condition has worsened due to experiencing falls and a raised step at an entrance to her property means she struggles with access. Ann has also run out of back pain medication and is finding it difficult to organize prescription renewal and pharmacy collection. From a social isolation perspective, Ann misses being involved in community activities and has mentioned that her emotional wellbeing would benefit if she could attend social clubs again.
CareLink staff arranged for a prescription with the pharmacy, collected the pain medication and delivered it to Ann’s home. Additionally, we arranged for Revival to organise a home safety check. As a home improvement agency dedicated to helping older and vulnerable home owners, action can be taken to improve Ann’s safety and prevent future falls. To help reduce isolation, CareLink is supporting Ann in attending local Royal Voluntary Service meetings again.
CareLink has already proved its worth through better outcomes for clients. Regular contact decreases their social isolation and increases their confidence. Moreover, the service is saving the NHS money, by avoiding unnecessary GP appointments and A&E attendances. We currently support over 140 older people, using 17 volunteers, making about 1550 calls per month.