21 June 2016
Tydfil Wood certainly doesn’t look her 86 years. Maybe her youthful appearance is a result of her new lease for life, or her enjoyment of spending time in the company of her peers after years of seeing just her closest family members.
Tydfil, a retired nurse who was born and raised in Rhondda, has spent the last seven years living in a self-contained annexe next to her daughter, Gaynor, near Merthyr Tydfil.
After the death of her husband, Alan, in 2004 Tydfil continued to live in Porth but eventually mobility problems left her unable to drive and she found herself becoming increasingly isolated.
“I’d spent many years as a district nurse travelling around Rhondda so I knew lots of people. Everyone would call me Sister Wood. But I found, after Alan died, I saw less and less of people. I’d stay in the house by myself. I would receive visits from the family but getting out independently was a problem because of my arthritis and mobility. Eventually I lost my confidence to go out.”
After spending her entire nursing career caring for others, Tydfil agreed that she now needed some extra support. Gaynor converted her garage into an annexe and Tydfil moved in next to her daughter.
Gaynor explained: “Mum lives very independently despite having some memory issues. However, I was worried that she was spending a lot of time just watch TV, reading books or doing crosswords and only ever seeing the family. She was doing nothing independently or seeing anyone other than the lady who brought her library books once a month.”
When Gaynor heard about the Red Cross Camau Cadarn (Positive Steps) project she contacted the charity to see if they could help her Mother.
With funding from Land Rover UK, Red Cross volunteers provide vulnerable or isolated people with essential practical and emotional support tailored to their specific needs. The Red Cross project focuses on reaching older people in Merthyr Tydfil who may be struggling to live alone or have difficulty coping due to recent injury, illness, disability or a personal crisis.
Janet Morgan, who volunteers for the service began making weekly visits to Tydfil in November 2015. At their first meeting they set the goals of finding a new hobby for Tydfil to enjoy and also increasing her confidence and independence.
Both Gaynor and Tydfil were very pleased with the help that Janet was able to offer. For Gaynor, it helped provide peace of mind.
She said: “The Red Cross have solved a lot of problems and have delivered some very practical help. After one visit Janet had encouraged Mum to have a Life-Line installed – something my sister and I had been suggesting for months. Within a week of Janet’s visit it was in and working. It’s given me real peace of mind that Mum is ok when I leave her.”
For Tydfil, she has picked up her knitting needles again after many years away from the hobby she had enjoyed throughout her life. “Because of my arthritis, I didn’t think I would be able to hold the needles, but I can and it’s actually good exercise for my hands. I used to knit as a child. My father had a colliery accident and his leg was amputated from the knee. It was my job to knit knee stumps for him.”
As the support from the Red Cross continued, Gaynor accompanied her Mother on a Christmas lunch where they enjoyed singing carols, exchanging gifts and even having a photo taken with Father Christmas.
But the biggest step for Tydfil was venturing out alone – without the support of her daughter. At the end of February, Janet arranged for Tydfil to attend a tea-dance in the town. For the first time in years, Tydfil was collected in a taxi and driven to the dance where she enjoyed an afternoon of singing and chatting with other members of the community.
“It was a very enjoyable afternoon”, she said. “It was nice to have time to socialise. I’m always surprised that there are other people who have more difficulties than me. It puts things into perspective really.”
Tydfil has plans to attend more tea-dances and events in the community. Her confidence has increased so much that she now attends a local day centre each week where she enjoys a ‘knit and natter’ with other members.
Gaynor has seen a huge change in her Mum in the last few months: “Mum would never have had the confidence to get in a taxi by herself but now she is much more independent.
“Janet’s visits have given Mum the little nudge she needed to regain her confidence. These new experiences means she has something to talk about – I enjoy hearing her stories about who she’s met and what she’s done that day. It’s nice to be able to have those conversations. It also takes some of the carer duties away from me so I benefit too.”
Tydfil is enjoying her new re-found freedom: “I used to feel lonely. When Gaynor was at work I could spend hours alone. Now I feel much better in myself. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but by going outside and meeting new people I can make new memories.”
Note to editors
This crucial programme in Merthyr Tydfil is part of a national partnership which sees Land Rover UK provide £2 million worth of support to 11 Red Cross projects in rural locations. The company continues its long-term vehicle loan scheme to the Red Cross during times of severe weather, enabling emergency response workers to access hard-to-reach communities at times of crisis.
For more information about the service, contact Flo Rice, community support service team leader, on 07720 738 478 or email Positivestepsfirstname.lastname@example.org