Befriending project helps older people after discharge

Kincardine Community Hospital
Kincardine Community Hospital

A befriending service for older people in Kincardine, Mearns and Deeside has so far helped over 20 people to live independently.

The pilot was funded from the Aberdeenshire Change Fund to run a Befriending at Hospital project in Kincardine and Glen O’Dee Community Hospital for two years.

The pilot has come to an end earlier last month. The evaluation of this pilot, which was developed and delivered in close cooperation with the NHS and Aberdeenshire Council Care Management, has shown that befriending reduced readmission to hospital and supported older people to maintain their independence at home after they left hospital.

The project matched older patients in the hospitals who are ready to be discharged, but have few social networks and lacked confidence to return home, with a volunteer befriender. Volunteers then visited them regularly in hospital and at home after discharge, offering on-going emotional and practical support.

Primary beneficiaries were older vulnerable patients with no, or a very limited, social network who were worried about leaving hospital and returning home. Frailty, depression, anxiety, associated sensory and mobility problems, as well as long term conditions and terminal illnesses were the main problems faced by clients referred for to K&D Befriending.

May, an 84-year old beneficiary said her befriender was someone she could talk to.

She said: “Going home after weeks in hospital was quite scary. I was very anxious about how I would cope at home but I have to say that my Befriender Linda was an enormous help.

“ She did my messages, took me shopping and so forth but the most important was that there was someone whom I could trust, who cared about me and who listened to me.”

GPs reported that the befriending service has made a positive contribution to the overall health and wellbeing of their patient and they have noticed a reduction in the number of medically unnecessary GP visits after the take up of the befriending service.

Angela Broad, Chair of Kincardine & Deeside Befriending said: “We are very fortunate to have fantastic volunteers with a variety of skills and experiences and an unfailing commitment to our cause of reducing loneliness and isolation in older people.

“We are pleased that Aberdeenshire’s new Health and Social Care Partnership is granting us funding to continue the project for at least another year.”