Hi, we’re Lynda Reilly and Lin Alexander-Pye and we’re going to tell you about our volunteer work with the Essex Relatives & Residents Association (Essex).
We both heard about the organisation at a workplace event which was promoting volunteering.
Let’s start by telling you something about the Essex Relatives & Residents Association (Essex), though from now on we’ll refer to it as the R&RA (Essex) for simplicity! It is an independent voluntary organisation that offers older people, and their families and friends, advice and support when they are considering a move into residential care. As we know, this can be stressful and emotional for everyone concerned. Apart from the upheaval of moving, often from a much loved family home, it can throw up a lot of questions and concerns such as:
- Is this the right thing to do?
- What are the alternatives?
- What will it cost?
- Will I have to sell my house?
- How do I find a home to suit me?
The R&RA (Essex) offers a dedicated advice line, run in collaboration with the national R&RA, and the expert and sympathetic team give independent, confidential help and advice, and will keep in touch with each caller as long as necessary to deal with the issues that concern them. So, for the cost of a phone call the R&RA (Essex) can give a resident, their family or care giver all the necessary information and support they need to reach the best decision for them. Once they have the facts then it is easier to look at what help might be possible to support them at home or make the move into residential care. We have the backing of Essex County Council, the NHS and Primary Care Trusts and so the R&RA (Essex) contributes to improving the quality of life for Essex residents in a big way.
So let’s tell you what the volunteers do. We, along with our fellow volunteers, distribute posters and flyers to community venues such as doctors’ surgeries and village halls. Also, we make presentations to community groups and some volunteers visit people living in residential homes. There’s a great camaraderie among the volunteers and Debbie Tanner, the Development Officer, is inspirational in the way she utilizes our different talents for the benefit of residents in the county. We are a mix of personalities and here’s why we decided to volunteer with the R&RA (Essex)
I’m Lynda Reilly and I went along to the volunteering event to see ‘what it was all about’. Having looked at the various stands I began to wonder where I could offer my services. I hesitated at the R&RA (Essex) table and realising I have an elderly parent in a residential home, in Devon, who I do not see as often as I would like, thought that may be I could visit an older person locally and become a ‘supporter’. Debbie saw my hesitancy, gave me a ready smile and said: “Sit down, let’s talk.” and we did for half an hour. I just opened up which is easy to do with Debbie.
Since then I’ve introduced her to Foley House, a residential home for deaf people here in Essex, as one of my skills is British Sign Language. Before long I was ‘phoning Foley House and told I would be welcome to visit at any time. Another warm welcome awaited me at a home in the Dengie area where Lin and I supported a presentation by the R&RA (Essex) to promote its great work. As a bonus we were taken on a tour of this charming home with its library, computer room which enables residents to contact relatives abroad via email, and activity area where there are lots of interesting things to do. Caring for older people is not doing everything for them but showing love, being aware of each individual’s capabilities and encouraging these. If you have any doubts or uncertainties about finding the right care for a loved one don’t let them ‘niggle’ away, ‘phone the R&RA (Essex) for peace of mind – you are sure to receive a smile.
I’m Lin Alexander-Pye and my personal experience of caring for a family member and then having to face the emotional trauma of her move into residential care was a stark wake-up call. We had, and still have, the assistance of great social workers but it occurred to me that not everyone starts with that support in place. I’d been thinking about finding some way to help but didn’t know what to do. Like Lynda, I met the inspirational Debbie and it took off from there. I’m presently working on a campaign to raise our profile across the parish council network in Essex and seeking the opportunity to visit some of them to spread the word about the help that’s available to their residents. Life can throw up some tough challenges and I believe that if there’s any way to alleviate some of the worry and stress for our fellow residents, then we have to do so. I always try to get along to our volunteers’ meetings to catch up on the latest news and be impressed by their enthusiasm and ideas.
Also, I’m grateful for the development opportunities offered, one was to attend a training course on Safeguarding which was so useful and I visited the London office to find out more about how the advice line operates. Volunteering with the R&RA (Essex) has opened my horizons and I’ve got to know Lynda who I didn’t know before – so it’s all wins for me.
Before we close here are some useful contacts: If you’d like to seek personal advice from the R&RA (Essex) advice line please call 0845 017 7720 (open Monday to Friday from 9.30 to 4.30).
If you want to find out more about becoming a volunteer with the R&RA (Essex) please contact: Debbie Tanner, Development Officer, on 0845 017 1095 for a chat. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome!