Newsletter Feb – March 2021

From The Frontline

By Tracy Hiney SHAC Manager and Angela Harding Befriending Coordinator.

Many elderly folks live alone with no family or active friends living nearby.

Our main service is our Befriending initiative, Surrey Heath Age Concern have 60 Volunteer Befrienders and a further 60 volunteers supporting a variety of social activities.

Before the COVID crisis these Befriending Volunteers visited their Befriendee every week for at least an hour, this is a lifetime commitment and over time they become part of their family. It is a special and personal relationship that is actively supported, in the background, by Surrey Heath Age Concern.

During the Pandemic the Volunteer Visitors have been adhering to government restrictions by visiting their friends in their gardens or by telephoning and, in some case where hearing is a problem, they have been writing and sending cards to keep the contact going.
It has not been easy but every contact makes a difference.

We spend a lot of time making sure our Volunteer Befrienders are a good match to the Befriendee and each time it works and we get wonderful feedback –
“They are part of my family now.”
“Without the visits and phone calls life would be very lonely.”

It’s a great comfort for these elderly residents living alone, that they have a trusted local friend they can turn to if the need arises and that’s extra special with stresses caused by the fear of COVID and the isolation self-distancing.

In response to the extra isolation caused by the initial COVID lockdown and social distancing the older people we support received additional regular calls from the SHAC team making sure they had everything they needed and helping them adjust to the new draconian conditions of the Pandemic.

We learnt what interesting lives they have led and we got to hear about their worries and where necessary could refer them to appropriate services to bring help when the feedback was plain desperation!

7 Days a Week Helpline Service Due To COVID

We also have a new helpline service manned at all times 8 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week, that any person we support including our volunteers can ring and have a chat or ask for support (Service started in March 20 due to COVID).

In Better Times

Some of our Befriendees have been with SHAC for many years. Some when they were more mobile coming to our Tea and Chatter groups. We arrange transport by volunteers to take them around to a volunteer host’s house to have tea, sandwiches, and cake.

It is a proper social event and they really enjoy meeting different guests and the hosting family. Many are wary of going out alone, so this has built up a trusting relationship with them so it’s a natural transition when they some become more frail to take on a SHAC Volunteer Befriender to call on them at home.

Ethel Thomas

Ethel Thomas at 104, is our oldest Befriendee living in her own home – her Grand daughter writes:

“I am writing to thank Surrey Heath Age Concern for finding a wonderful fun loving befriender into my grandma’s life. Before March 2020, Suzanne was visiting Ethel each week. Ethel loves talking about when she went dancing and places she has lived and her love for cooking too. I am very grateful that I was able to meet both Suzanne and Angela in the garden last year (adhering to the COVID regulations), we had a joyous meet up chatting about Ethel and how we were keeping ourselves busy.

I would like to thank Suzanne for writing to Ethel each week, I know the carers give her the cards to read. Suzanne’s love and kindness is a blessing, Ethel’s family are truly thankful for the love and support. We would like to think Ethel inspires others to be happy and laugh and be grateful for the good things in life which make us all smile. They did laugh in Boots when I told them the nine compacts were essential items for my grandma and that they may only last a month or two! “How old is your grandma” they asked, “103yrs” I replied “OMG yes it is essential.

Thank you for being there for our grandma and for all the people you help”

Weekly Tea And Memories

Weekly Tea and Memories sessions at The Rainbow Cafe (pre-covid) are for those more able to meet up chat and make friends we hold bingo sessions, quizzes and they have a “high tea” people really enjoy these and keep asking when it will be safe to come back.

Open – Close – Open and then Close!!

What a blow to have to close our Rainbow café – open 6 days a week in the Town centre – it has been serving the local town community since 1977!!!

We made the decision to open the Rainbow café in July 20 as we felt the elderly people who were still going out needed a safe welcoming place where they could go.

Many have said this has made such a difference and we have been on hand to help elderly people with problems such as form – filling and letters etc which were worrying them. Some of which turned out to be hoaxes!

We had to cut our seating capacity by half and strictly follow all the guidelines buying screens, automatic sanitisers and disposable crockery and worked with our volunteers to develop safe working practices.

The Café was closed again in November we look forward to opening as soon as possible.

Collateral Damage

Since the start of the intense lockdown we have been ringing the attendees of our Social events on a weekly basis and also many of our volunteers, who are elderly and live alone or are caring for a partner.

During the phone calls we noticed many of our elderly people have lost confidence and we have had to assist with some exceedingly difficult situations such as bereavement of a partners, deteriorating mental health and mobility issues and the considerable stress caused by the difficulty of accessing health care services.

We will continue supporting all our elderly people and have had more referrals from other organisations i.e., Social prescribing, Home from Hospital and we are still supporting people that Surrey Heath Prepared referred to us in March.

We are hoping we can engage more volunteers to work with us as people are freed up to venture out, they will need support of good hearted local people to help build up their confidence.

We look forward to when life returns to normal and we can celebrate properly with all our elderly friends and volunteers.

Christmas Presents

With our Christmas party for volunteers and friends cancelled SHAC’s office team and Trustees were busy delivering and preparing Christmas gifts for our fantastic volunteers and elderly clients, throughout the borough of Surrey Heath. Everyone had a festive knock on the door so no one felt forgotten!

The office team, Tracy and Angela wrapped and stuffed the boxes which took 3 days! Gwen (Chair of our Trustees) did a great job securing the shoeboxes from Deichmann in the Camberley’s Mall. Deliveries were made by Charles (Vice Chair of our Trustees), Doug (Trustee), Tracy and Angela on Monday.

We were very fortunate to have donations from Johnson Wax (Frimley), Tesco Extra store at the Meadows, Waitrose (Bagshot) and Waitrose (Frimley High Street) and in our thanks to Pembroke House Camberley who gave us a sizeable donation of £350 towards the cost.