The pressures on the NHS are widely reported, especially in the winter months. But what about people who rely on community care to keep them safe at home – even at night?
Jenny is 59 years old. Thanks to a combination of medical conditions, she is bed-bound and receives four visits per day from her carers.
They help with everything from preparing meals to giving her medication – but what’s crucial, according to Jenny, is that they enable her to live in her own home.
Having had spells in hospital, and in a nursing home, in recent years, Jenny knows better than most the value of community carers. Having her own things around her, with her children and grandchildren able to visit as often as they want, is vital to her well-being.
Yet there is still a gap in Jenny’s care – and in the care offered to many people around the Harrogate area. Once carers clock off at 10pm, there is no service available to meet their needs overnight.
As a result, many people are unable to be discharged from hospital, or have to stay in a care home when their own home would be far more suitable if something as simple as a 30-minute care visit could be provided during the night.
It is this gap in provision that has prompted one Harrogate care provider to launch a pilot scheme to offer a night service.
Samantha Harrison, Director of Continued Care, believes there are many people around Harrogate who would benefit from care visits during the night.
“The reality is that, without a night service, some people end up in residential care when they would much prefer to be at home,” said Samantha.
“Even for those who are living at home with family, the lack of a night service puts extra pressure on them. When you’re caring for someone at home, the nights can feel very long and lonely.
“Our night service will relieve some of that pressure – carers will visit at pre-arranged times as needed, which not only helps the client to stay at home but also enables their loved ones to get a proper night’s sleep knowing they are in the best hands.”
The night service will offer home visits between 9pm and 7am, with carers doing everything from repositioning clients in bed or taking them to the toilet to flushing through PEG feeds and giving medication. It could provide peace of mind for families whose loved ones have recently been discharged from hospital, or are receiving palliative care.
Samantha believes it will also support younger people to be more independent. Because of the way social care is currently funded and organised, people who need assistance going to bed have to be visited before 10pm. With the new night service, they could stay up as late as they wish – and similarly, early appointments could be met with a first visit before 7am.
“It’s about treating people as individuals and meeting their particular needs, not just fitting them in to what’s currently possible,” said Samantha.
“We pride ourselves on getting to know our clients and going the extra mile to give them a good quality of life. We’ve organised special trips, supported them to cook their own meals, and every year we join together for a fantastic Christmas party with clients and carers.
“The night service is an extension of that approach and we hope as many people as possible can benefit from it.”
Founded in Harrogate in 1991, Continued Care already employs more than 80 carers to look after its 200 clients across the Harrogate district. Now, Samantha is preparing to recruit a team of night carers and a night manager to run the new service.
Carers on the new night team will work in pairs, travelling between appointments by car, and will have a dedicated base at Continued Care’s head office just off Skipton Road. The company is offering full training and support to gain qualifications, as well as permanent contracts, paid holidays and a company pension scheme.
“Being a carer is hard work, and it isn’t appreciated enough by society,” said Samantha. “Community care is a vital component in taking pressure off hospitals and nursing homes – and in giving people the dignity they deserve while living at home, offering them a choice of environment.
“Caring for other people in the community is a wonderful thing to do. It’s enormously rewarding when you see the difference you can make to someone’s life by supporting them to live independently.”
The most important thing is to offer out community a choice to remain at home, supported at night.
For more information, visit www.continued-care.co.uk