About Friendship At Home
The North East Lincolnshire-based charity was established in September 2006, funded by a legacy left to Help The Aged. This came about when a senior member of Help The Aged spent a day out in the community and saw first-hand the isolation and loneliness that older people can face every day.
Friendship At Home’s mission is to help combat these, and to improve older peoples’ quality of life. Through groups, activities and more, members are encouraged and supported in becoming a vital part of community life.
What it does and how it helps
Friendship At Home offers a variety of services for over-60s living in North East Lincolnshire, from a one-to-one befriending service (also available over the telephone) and social/physical activities to information and support. The charity also holds weekly Friendship Clubs, where members take part in chair-based exercises, quizzes, games and more.
“These clubs give our members somewhere local to meet, where they feel safe and valued,”
Said development manager Julie Rigby. “Our members say it gives them a purpose in their week, and something to look forward to.
“When a person has a volunteer befriender who visits on a regular basis, experience shows us that their self-esteem and confidence grow, and they also feel valued again because someone is spending quality time with them.”
Prospective members are referred to Friendship At Home in various ways, including self-referral or through family and neighbours, GPs, social services, and social housing providers.
“Some of our members suffer with depression, anxiety, memory concerns, and other mental health issues. Others have physical condition which are a barrier to being socially active within the community,” Julie explained. “We carry out a full assessment on each member and, together with them, decide which service or services most suit their needs.”
The St Hugh’s Project
Our involvement with Friendship At Home goes back more than four years. The St Hugh’s Project funds the positions of two dementia specialists, Mandy Sparkes and Clare Mills, to especially work with members experiencing the condition.
Mandy, a full-time Dementia Community Support Worker, carries out initial assessments when someone with dementia or memory concerns is referred to Friendship At Home. Clare, a part-time Dementia Aware Worker, does longer-term work, such as life story work and further visits. For example, someone might need further information on transport, or benefits, or social clubs, and Clare will discuss what’s available – and what’s right – with that person and their family.
Our partnership with Friendship At Home first began in 2017.
“It’s a one-stop shop if you like,” said Mandy. “At one end of the scale, someone might ring us up asking to find a mobile hairdresser, while at the opposite end, someone might call because their partner has been diagnosed with an illness… it really does involve all sorts of services. We see all shades of life and all sorts of situations, – happy and sad, of course, but knowing we are helping is so satisfying.”
Mandy and Clare see first-hand how their work has a positive effect on the individual using Friendship At Home, but also their families, too. Much of what they do involves that person’s partner, children, grandchildren, and others.
“There are some services that, for example, only support carers, or some that only support the person with dementia,”
Mandy continued. “The St Hugh’s Project encompasses the whole family, even right down to members such as nieces and nephews, who often have no knowledge of dementia.
“We deliver dementia-friendly sessions to explain what’s happening and what might happen. For young family members – and even adult ones – a dementia diagnosis in a relative can be a scary and alienating thing. It’s about enabling situations where they are better able to deal with things and therefore, in turn, making things better for the individual concerned.”
The newest addition to the roster of activities within the St Hugh’s Project is the CST (Cognitive Stimulation Therapy) Group, which focusses on fun brain and co-ordination exercises. We took part in a session, and you can read all about it here.
One of the other ways we help is with the St Hugh’s triobike. We are regularly out and about on our battery assisted bike which is specially adapted to carry two front-facing. We purchased this to enable people who aren’t always able to get into their communities to enjoy some fresh air. Find out all about our triobike and why it helps here.
Friendship at Home is always looking out for new people to help make a difference. “The work we do would not be possible without our dedicated team of volunteers,” said Julie. “Volunteering with our charity is about establishing new friendships, sharing experiences, and gaining new skills. Older people are encouraged to volunteer themselves, as they have knowledge and experience; by volunteering, they give to their community but also receive something back.”
The charity’s one-to-one befriending scheme, for example, simply would not run without volunteers.
“Many older people have little to no social interaction during the week and really benefit from seeing a friendly face,” said Julie. “Just one hour a week of your time will be incredibly valuable to someone in need. You can provide someone with a window to the outside world – and enjoy their company as well. We match our members and volunteer befrienders based on personality and interests so that a real friendship can grow.”
Anyone over the age of 18 can get involved, or anyone over 16 at the social clubs; the current age range is from early 20s to mid-80s!
“Just as our members are diverse in their backgrounds, our volunteers also have a wide range of backgrounds,” Julie added. “We have volunteers who are students, retired, unemployed, employed, disabled, non-disabled, or people who have previously undertaken a caring role. You can volunteer as much time as you would like in a week, and we will do our best to work around the hours you are available.”
If you’re from a local organisation and interested in finding out more about our triobike rides and what it involves, call Gary Allington on 01472 251100. That’s if you think we can help you by providing rides, and also by sharing what we know to help you set up your own project.
Become a pilot! Sign up with Friendship At Home and take passengers out for rides. There’s no minimum commitment – just the willingness to donate your time, whatever you can give. Full training and support is given, so what are you waiting for? Get in touch now with Friendship At Home on 01472 602500.
And just in case you need a final bit of persuasion, take a look at the St Hugh’s Hospital Facebook page for the triobike photo album… and see the smiles for yourself!