Sheffield service makes a real difference to Graham

Graham Heath is grateful for the support he has received through the ILC service
Graham Heath is grateful for the support he has received through the ILC service
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Support makes life easier for 71 year old following death of his beloved wife Pauline

When Graham Heath lost his wife to cancer, he wondered how he would cope both emotionally and practically.

Graham Heath with his independent living coordinator Debbie Price

Graham Heath with his independent living coordinator Debbie Price

Born with cerebral palsy, 71-year-old Graham has mobility problems, especially down his left-hand side, and his left leg is shorter than his right.

He also finds reading and writing a challenge, causing him problems when it comes to dealing with everyday paperwork, such as paying bills.

With the help of wife-of-14-years Pauline, Graham could get by. However, facing life alone after she lost her battle to cancer in 2013 was a daunting experience.

“Obviously it was a very upsetting time when she passed away and I was worried about how I would manage some everyday things now I was on my own,” says Graham, who lives in High Green.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has visited the ILC service team to learn about the support it provides

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has visited the ILC service team to learn about the support it provides

When looking for help, Graham was put in touch with Age UK Sheffield’s Independent Living Coordination service.

The innovative service is targeted at those with complex lives who often have long-term illness, lower resilience and reduced capability to manage everyday life or self-care.

Its independent living coordinators, who are specialists in issues that commonly affect individuals in later life, work to find solutions to whatever problems are affecting someone’s ability to self-manage health conditions and live independently – whether it be poverty, low confidence, depression, social isolation or restricted mobility.

Graham was paired with living coordinator Debbie Price, and quickly felt comforted by her assistance.

“Debbie worked with me as well as a trainee social worker who was on placement with the service at the time,” says Graham. “At first Debbie phoned me frequently, which was very reassuring, and when we worked out what help I needed they both did a really good job getting my paperwork and bills in order, particularly because there was a lot to sort after Pauline’s death.

“These may have been relatively small things, but I felt less stressed and more in control of what I was doing as I didn’t have to worry bills weren’t being paid or I had missed something important.”

With a rising elderly population and ever-decreasing public resources, the ILC service aims to give customers the tools and means to quickly and appropriately resolve issues in their lives. It is hoped this will reduce the risk of further decline and mitigate the need for more intensive and costly government-funded support and care.

Graham says: “I have a supportive family of three brothers and two sisters and a good friend who has helped me enormously, but the ILC service has sorted some practical things. They are also looking into a befriending service, so I have a bit more company when I need it.”

Beyond practical support, Debbie also supports Graham in dealing with the loss of his much-loved wife and is currently helping him to arrange a commemorative plaque and bench to be placed at Doncaster Racecourse in her memory.

Graham says: “She loved to watch the racing and had a little bet every Saturday. I am looking forward to going to see the bench when it is all sorted.”

“It is still very hard not having Pauline with me – when I don’t go out the days are very long. But it is nice to know Debbie is there if anything else happens and if I need help as I can go back to them at any point, which is only a positive thing for my health and wellbeing.”

* Anyone over the age of 50 can access Age UK Sheffield services. For more information, call 0114 250 2850, or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/sheffield

The background on the ILC service

More than 2,000 older people in Sheffield – those at most risk of health decline or hospital admission – have benefited from the ILC service since it was set up in 2011.

Its independent living coordinators assist people with varying tasks so they can remain in their own homes.

This includes support such as finding out benefit entitlement and helping with the application process, setting up direct debits to pay bills, assistance accessing charitable funding for essential items, finding and accessing social groups and activities and help planning and arranging holidays.

Rosalind Eve, chief executive of Age UK Sheffield, said: “The scheme fully complements housing, health, social care and community-based services across Sheffield and has ensured 98 per cent of service users have achieved independence without onward referral to health services or residential care.”

Current funding for the ILC service is due to run out in March and discussions are now taking place to secure future funding and ensure the service keeps going.