Community Friends pilot project

Wendy Harris, business manager at Cambridge Medical Centre (left) and David Hall, Cambridge Resthaven chief executive officer (right) hope the new project will help combat loneliness among the elderly.

Cambridge Resthaven and Cambridge Medical Centre have joined forces in a pilot project called “Community Friends”, a home visiting service for elderly people starting early June. The idea was sparked by the need that both organisations were seeing in their respective areas for a different kind of support than is currently on offer.

Cambridge Resthaven retirement village and rest home drew their inspiration for the project from their Meals on Wheels service. David Hall, Cambridge Resthaven CEO said, “We know that clients enjoy the social side of the Meals on Wheels deliveries. For people living on their own, who don’t have someone to talk to regularly, life can be lonely, and the Meals on Wheels driver may be the only person the client sees that day. That started us thinking it would be great to have a visiting service, where the sole purpose is to have a friendly chat and enjoy a cup of tea together in a relaxed environment.”

For Cambridge Medical Centre, the idea came from looking into how they could best help patients with long term medical conditions who suffer from isolation and loneliness. Wendy Harris, business manager at Cambridge Medical Centre said, “Some elderly patients visit the doctor not for medical problems, but because they are lonely. We want to help our patients get the support they need, but we have found there is a gap in the services available. Although there are great clinical services for the elderly living in their own homes covering practical needs like personal care, showering and help with the housework, what isn’t considered is the importance of the social side of life – having someone who can take the time to have a simple chat.” Loneliness and social isolation are recognised as risk factors nationally and internationally. According to a 2016-2017 interRAI (International Residential Assessment Instrument) New Zealand report, 22 per cent of people receiving home care in the community feel lonely.

For the pilot project, Cambridge Medical Centre will refer interested patients, and Cambridge Resthaven will provide one or two Community Friends who will visit once or twice a week.

Mr Hall said, “The pilot will be with a small number of people, so we can get a feel for how it works. Combining ideas and resources with Cambridge Medical Centre is really valuable and we hope it might make all the difference to people.”

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