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The role of homeshare for older people during and post-pandemic

Flo and Luciana have built a friendship through home sharing in the pandemic that has seen them litter picking together in the local park.

For anyone who can live independently with just a little help around the house and would like more company, Homeshare could be a valuable solution.

What is homeshare?

It’s incredibly beneficial for older people to be able to live at home in their own community and being able to follow the same routine and lifestyle as they have always enjoyed is incredibly beneficial for older people.

They may say that help isn’t needed, but often it’s a case that they are merely managing their situation rather than being able to thrive.  We believe that people should not be restricted by living choices as they get older.

Homeshare is an option that matches older people who require, and would benefit from, a little help to live independently in their own home with people who are looking for an affordable home to live in, and are happy and able to give 15 hours each week of practical help, support and companionship in exchange for accommodation.

Where does homeshare sit with other support options?

Traditional models of care, such as residential accommodation or live-in care, are commonly the direction in which older people are signposted when additional support is required. They are not always the best option.

It may be that an older person simply needs a minimal level of extra support with jobs like putting together a hot dinner, keeping on top of the garden, or simply having someone there share a chat with. In this case homeshare could be the answer.

As well as being more appropriate, homeshare can be a more cost-effective choice.  Live-in carers can cost hundreds of pounds per week, while residential care can cost thousands of pounds.  Homeshare, on the other hand, can cost as little as £35 per week.

What are the benefits of homeshare?

At Share and Care Homecare we have been matching people for 15 years, supporting thousands of people along the way. We know that homeshare makes a big difference to people that take part, and our householders regularly tell us the benefits to them.

Families have the reassurance and security of someone staying overnight in the home of their loved one.  For instance, in the case of an emergency, the alarm can be raised earlier than if they were living alone.

Equally, having someone to provide practical support for day-to-day tasks reduces the pressure on family members.

For older people, having someone to chip in with the housework or cooking makes an enormous difference.

Homeshare also provides a boost of encouragement, helping older people avoid lengthy hospital stays or a move to a care home.

Another key benefit is better mental health and wellbeing, with homeshare offering the companionship and friendships formed help to relieve stress and anxiety.

We have sometimes provided two homesharers to our clients too at no extra cost, meaning they receive double the level support each week, which really highlights that people are getting the most out of arrangements and making sure it works best for them.

For those who also require some personal care, a care package can sit alongside a homeshare arrangement.

How has homeshare helped older people during the pandemic?           

The positive impact of homeshare has shone throughout the pandemic.

At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic the majority of older people remained at home to keep themselves safe.

Over time many found themselves alone and isolated from the outside world. Covid restrictions have seen loneliness and social isolation soar, affecting mental health and wellbeing.

Homeshare has been incredibly beneficial in this context. Firstly, it ensured that people shielding had someone to get their shopping and helped them keep in touch with friends and family via the internet.  It also meant that loneliness and social isolation did not impact those in homeshare arrangements, who had the ongoing companionship and friendship of their sharer.

The Covid pandemic has shown how homeshare has enabled people to thrive even in challenging circumstances.

Homeshare in action: addressing the challenges of pandemic

At Share and Care we have continued to support homesharers during Covid-19, creating a supportive community atmosphere, and encouraging interaction.

Early on we developed extensive, workable homeshare Covid-19 guidelines to ensure we could continue to make homeshare arrangements.  I also completed a mental health awareness course, particularly to support our sharers during Covid times.

At the start of the pandemic, we wrote letters to supermarkets to ensure our sharers were allowed priority entry along with key workers.

We launched a free weekly Zoom seated exercise class, led by a qualified fitness instructor, which we continue to run.  As well as being good for physical health, the classes are a friendly upbeat platform where people can interact.  It’s open to anyone and people can sign up via our website.

A weekly newsletter was also launched which contains a fun element including a weekly quiz, food recipes, and photos of what we and our clients had been doing to keep our spirits raised and ensure people stay connected; another measure that we are continuing with post pandemic.

Food brings people together, and sharing a meal with someone is much more palatable, and enjoyable than eating alone.  This inspired us to write a cookery book, ‘Saucery’, which has been very well received! It includes quick and easily adaptable sauces and recipes accompanied by top tips and dietary advice to tackle health issues faced by some older people.

A pandemic case study: Flo and Luciana 

Right at the start of the Covid pandemic, we found a sharer to move into the London home of Flo who has dementia. Her daughters who live elsewhere in the UK, wanted to give Flo some company and practical help, while at the same time giving them the reassurance of an extra point of communication and to know that their mum had some support.

A very warm, active and sociable lady, Flo loved going out to see friends, take bus rides,  and visit the shops. She was not the sort of person who would be happy to stay at home, or indeed constantly remember the isolation rules.

It was challenging, but Flo’s sharer, Luciana, is very creative and spent time with Flo keeping her busy and engaged with craft work, doing puzzles, gardening and, as Flo was learning Italian, reading Italian books. Luciana was also able to help Flo get online for Italian lessons and exercise classes, and make Flo’s lockdown birthday a happy one, even though her family couldn’t visit.

Luciana also had the brilliant idea of going to the park when restrictions allowed – not for a normal walk, but to pick up litter. They took a litter stick and as well as Flo really enjoying the activity, she was also really boosted by the overwhelming response of passers-by, stopping to say ‘well done’. Thanks to one of Flo’s granddaughters, they now have matching litter picking vests which really help them to stand out!

Luciana is a very thoughtful sharer who has made an enormous positive difference to Flo’s life, especially through lockdown, and given Flo’s family peace-of-mind.

 

Author of this post, Amanda Clarke is a director at social enterprise Share and Care Homeshare, the largest and most experienced nationwide provider in the UK.  For further information contact 020 3865 3398, email [email protected], or visit www.shareandcare.co.uk

 

 

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