The care and kindness that our volunteers are showing can be genuinely overwhelming. On a recent call with some of our volunteers, I heard about the many ways in which our tea party groups are managing to show older people that they are not forgotten.
People’s lives are being transformed by acts of generosity, neighbourliness and thoughtfulness and it’s a privilege to hear about the ways in which our volunteers are making a difference.
Many older people have told us they honestly don’t know what they would have done without their Re-engage volunteers over the past few months.
We all can’t wait to see more of the people we care about and, in these strange times, it’s hard to keep up to speed with the guidelines relating to Covid. While every one of us will, inevitably, have our own view of the risk to ourselves and others, at Re-engage we request that, with the easing of lockdown, all of our volunteers keep a careful eye on government guidance.
Sadly, the guidance is clear that we can't resume our much-loved tea parties yet. It says we need to continue with social distancing and that there are limits on numbers of people who can meet inside and outside. There is also a lot of guidance advising us not to share cutlery and crockery; to avoid using other people’s loos; and generally to continue to avoid group gatherings.
The main source of information is the government website, which gives the instruction to us all that “when you leave home you must:
Wash hands – keep washing your hands regularly
Cover face – wear a face covering over your nose and mouth in enclosed spaces
Make space – stay at least a metre away from people not in your household.”
There are local lockdowns and restrictions in various places across the UK and we know that this information changes regularly and that when it changes it is often sudden. Any of our volunteers who plan to be in contact with any of the older people we support need to be confident that they have consulted the relevant guidelines.
They will also need to be aware of the travel guidelines; some people will be self-isolating because they, or someone in their household, has visited a country which is not on the safe travel list.
Most importantly, the older people themselves must be comfortable with the level of risk that they are exposed to. As a charity, we have a duty to make sure that all our activities are safe and meet core standards.
This is why, if our volunteers do decide to meet with the older people in their groups, then we ask that they complete this risk assessment form beforehand.
Putting an end to loneliness is what brings us all together. The wellbeing of the older people we support is paramount. Loneliness is brutal, but Covid-19 is a nasty disease and older people have seen particularly bad outcomes.
As the flu season approaches, and while there is still no vaccine for Covid, we encourage our volunteers to continue making their essential phone calls to the older people in their groups to help them stay in touch.
If an older person would like more phone calls on a regular basis then we’d be delighted to provide them with a call companion. Anyone can help an older person sign up for this service.
We’d like to thank our volunteers again for all they are doing to make the lives of older people so much more bearable at this lonely and difficult time.
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