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Lucy Bird
Community & Enhanced Day Care Services Manager

Age UK Bolton

In what situation did you meet the person/s?

Age UK’s Befriending Service aims to offer social contact and friendship for older people experiencing feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Befriending volunteers spend quality time with clients doing things they enjoy such as going for a short walk, visiting a local coffee shop or spending time in the older person’s home chatting over a cup of tea. Referrals can be made by anyone; the individuals themselves, from families or carers, GP’s, practice nurses and social workers. The service coordinator will visit client in their home to get to know a bit about what they are interested in and then again to ‘match’ them with a suitable volunteer and to introduce them to each other and help arrange visiting. In addition to weekly visits from a befriending volunteer, clients are also invited to join regular afternoon teas that are held within the borough.

How did you raise the issue of diet and/or weight loss?

As part of the befriending assessments, service coordinators discuss a number of things with the older people; about their families, what their interests and hobbies are and what they would like to do during the visits. As the number of referrals outweighs the number of volunteers the service coordinators often also signpost to other activities the older people might be interested in within the local area or other services they might be interested in; for example the library offers a home visiting service whereby they deliver books to those who are unable to visit the library. Where appropriate, service coordinators discuss the ‘Are you eating enough?’ booklet with the older person and leave it with them to also have a read through in their own time.     

Examples of where the intervention has been successful:

During Nutrition and Hydration Week this year, the Befriending Afternoon Tea’s focussed on awareness raising of eating and drinking well. Some great discussions were had between the older people who shared tips on easy meals to make. One lady was incredibly grateful for the booklet with the snack ideas in:

“Sometimes you just can’t be bothered to make something when you are on your own. Having a chat around the table today has given me ideas of things I can cook for myself, or things I can snack on; when I go home I am going to sit down with my son and circle all the things in the weekly planner which I like to eat.”

What difference has this made? 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the clients we support we are going to come across malnutrition and dehydration. The training session certainly helped increase confidence to discuss eating and drinking habits during befriending assessments; the booklet is also an easy to read way to show this information. I feel it is great to be able to offer these early interventions, sometimes older people don’t realise they aren’t eating and drinking enough.