Chorlton Good Neighbours: Report May 2020
We are now settling into a routine of regular shopping for people who have requested that; some are CGN members and others are new to us. Support is needed because people are having to shield (often these are residents under 60 years of age) or stay indoors as they are in a vulnerable group. We are also dealing with occasional one-offs for prescription collection or other errands.
I sense also that callers are beginning to ask for more usual types of information eg borrow a wheelchair, numbers of tradesmen or Wiltshire Farm Foods, or can we sign a will, and we are still making referrals to our nursing and social services colleagues when we have concerns about an older member.
How is everyone coping? Many people are really trying to keep positive and as busy and creative as they can but this is still hiding a creeping sense of boredom and frustration.” I’m going up the wall “ “ I just say I’ m ok to please people “ For others it is more obvious that they are struggling, maybe not getting dressed and expressing feelings of low mood and anxiety. Interestingly, it is sometimes opportunity that enables us to find this out as one person with several connections into CGN may say they are fine to one volunteer over the telephone, but really open up during a What’s app session with a couple of other people they have bonded with from a shared activity.
Community Staff supporting the most vulnerable report a worsening of general and mental health due to the enforced social isolation, and many are struggling with being unable to see families or only fleetingly with shopping. Often this group do not access social media either. Interestingly though some report that neighbours are checking in on them, even offering to shop, and that is something new for them, which offers an element of reassurance.
We asked our older members how they were spending the time during lockdown.
Volunteer Cathy telephoned 49 older members to check in on them and the following observations could be made. Many commented that they missed the company and the activities. Some said they were really bored “It gets me down being alone so much “and “I don’t enjoy being locked in”. One lady commented it ‘seems worse than during the war in some ways as at least then you could go about in a normal routine’ and another said “I am missing all the art, coffee mornings, the gossip and the face to face contact”
Other members seemed to be making constructive use of the time in doors.
- making drawstring bags out of pillow cases for paramedics to put their uniforms in
- gardening, enjoying the sunshine
- knitting, reading, re learning to play piano
- exercising including walking or doing exercises off a written sheet / internet
- cleaning and de cluttering, painting and decorating
- Being creative through different media
Some older members had taken part in Zoom time with family, church services, choirs and slimming world. Others belonged to What’s app groups down their roads, which was also a way of getting some shopping support if needed. 9 members of CGN’s positive living group were keen to try a small what’s app video chat during the first week of May, with group facilitator Debra.
Where possible members were having socially distanced chats with neighbours or other residents in their communal gardens. Interestingly some supported housing schemes had ruled that tenants were not allowed to use the gardens, and some communal lounges remain locked.
Older members who took themselves out for walks /cycle said they felt better for doing something outside the house. One chap said he had to get out as ‘he was going crazy’ staying in all the time. A few commented that they spoke to strangers when out and about, and this wasn’t usually the norm. They felt people on the whole were being friendlier, although some people were not that good at social distancing, especially some joggers and people in the shops, and that was causing irritation and distress.
One lady said she tried to stay inventive and positive whilst getting out
- by exploring roads and cul de sacs nearby that she hadn’t really seen before
- noticing more detail – bird song, seeing funny names in car registration plates, talking to cats, birds and insects
- doing a little dance if she hears loud music from a house or a car- she made a young couple smile when she did that!
- by smiling at strangers
Another lady told me she is taking more photos of flowers and nature each time she goes out so she has a focus to the walk.
Recording Lockdown: I have begun asking people to share their thoughts on paper or send in any creative work, (or photos of it) that they have been attempting whilst having to stay indoors. Once we resume activities it may be possible then to have a small exhibition of that work.
3 Community staff are supporting some of our more vulnerable residents, checking in with them weekly or every few days, at the door, shopping and delivering Morrisons food parcels. When the weather is good they also spend longer with them in the garden, socially distanced, having taken their own stool.
49 volunteers are in touch with the 50 regular clients , whom they would normally home visit, and 19 volunteers are giving weekly phone calls to 95 older members, the majority of whom were attendees at the onsite activities.
Shopping /errand volunteers
A core of 20 volunteers have been helping out with shopping , prescription collection and hearing aid battery deliveries, as well as using their daily exercise session to hand deliver the newsletters, small food item gifts from the local Unicorn store ( see Vanessa photo) and magazines, donated through Age Friendly Manchester.
Money In terms of the issues around paying for shopping ;
This is settling into a better routine now with some clients still paying by cash, a couple allowing the volunteer/staff member to pay by contactless payment, and others needing the volunteer to pay and CGN reimbursing them and then invoicing the client. One regular shopping client has since moved from the latter to organising a click and collect shop; this is ideal as there is no need for any transactions between parties, but it can mean a volunteer having to collect the shop at 7 or 8pm at night!
Trainer Debra has been in contact with her regular 22 participants, finding that most were remaining fairly philosophical about the situation, though as reported above, desperate to find ways to keep occupied. Pairs of members were joining Debra in What’s app chats
“Many thanks for the message and for the confirmation of the talk by Zoom. I hope it is OK, but I have circulated it to a few friends, one of which lives in Chorlton and I am sure would like to join. I found the Newsletter very good indeed and so comprehensive – a mix of information and helpful handy tips, and so supportive to older people living alone. Well done! “
CGN decided to lease a bigger coloured copier to cope with producing a monthly newsletter, which is very much appreciated by members. The May newsletter included pictures, strategies for those struggling with boredom and useful information with relevant numbers of organisations offering various types of support ( eg local food outlets willing to deliver, IT support for older members, law centre dealing with legal issues and Manchester Hub)
CGN has bought a supply of face masks and vinyl gloves for staff and volunteers, especially for use in shops or where the 2m distancing is not possible. A box of gloves was donated by local Celebrations shop.
Trustee Kate had telephoned local pharmacies to offer any support from CGN volunteers but was informed by most that they were making use of volunteers signed up through NHS goodsam.
New ways of working
We are all learning very quickly how to use Zoom, and people seem keen to learn and enjoy this format. Some volunteers and Parents from the regular Tuesday Group have a weekly catch up, and CGN trustees held their first successful Zoom Committee meeting in May. We have arranged for the June History talk to go ahead via this technology, and hope this will become the norm for other history speakers.
Here’s a little reflection from one of the Tuesday group volunteers, Christine:
“As with everything at the moment our Tuesday toddler group has had to close but thanks to the wonders of Zoom we can still have our get together, albeit a virtual one.
Thanks to Rachel one of our volunteers we have a Zoom meeting at 10.15 am every Tuesday morning. Both mums and children and some volunteers are able to join in. Rachel leads the singing and we sing the songs requested by the children and we always finish with our marching song The Grand Old Duke of York .The mums and volunteers all get a chance to chat to each other and as they say A good time is had by all”
Telephone befriending volunteers were having a Zoom catch up early June with the Co ordinator and trainer. This will help hopefully help us further understand how volunteers and older members are coping, and what approach people are thinking about as the easing of lockdown begins. Opinions seem very polarised at present with some members adamant they won’t really venture out, other than for a walk, until a vaccine is available, and others raring to get started.
Lockdown appears to have further strengthened some community connections and encouraged others to come forward with ideas or offers of support that need our help to get off the ground or expand. Examples here include:
- Volunteer and local resident Lisa Mather approached CGN for the names of local supported housing complexes and residential/nursing homes so that she could organise musicians to visit outside and entertain the residents. The visit to Ryland House in Chorlton is posted on the CGN website, and we can see how much joy it brought to people.
- Ex volunteer Abbie who is a member of Chorlton Bike Deliveries got in touch asking if we could promote 3 local businesses who would be using them to home deliver goods. CGN members later rang in to say that they have since contacted those shops to order goods from them
- Withington Audiology Dept were wanting to get a questionnaire out to local residents to gauge interest in ‘virtual hearing clinics’, so we were able to get 100 of their questionnaires out with our newsletter.
- Business in the Community, via Big change, offered to support older CGN members with any technological issues so that they could gain maximum use out of social media, their phones and any IT equipment . One member said she had contacted them for support in getting What’s app onto her phone, and had found them really helpful and courteous.
Seeking our opinion
CGN has dealt with calls and emails from various colleagues and organisations (Age friendly Manchester, Health Development Co ordinators, Southways Housing, asking for our observations on any emerging trends or gaps in service provision or what our thoughts are about how the community proceeds when lockdown begins to ease.
Forward planning :
A risk management plan for activities and services as well as a general work place risk assessment has been completed, and Trustees will be discussing implementation and timescales at their meeting mid June, in conjunction with up to date Government guidelines.
CGN was delighted to receive a letter and a Special Recognition Award Certificate from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester in recognition of ‘outstanding activity and contribution to the community’ during the C-19 pandemic. This was a marvellous boost to all the volunteers and community based staff who have given so much support and kindness to many local residents.
Helen Hibberd, Co ordinator