accessibility & help

‘I used to go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up…’

After losing both her husband and much of her eyesight, Hilda was at her very lowest ebb – but with a little patience and a lot of care, our volunteer helped the pensioner rediscover her zest for life.

Even now, Hilda Robinson finds the memory of her beloved partner’s loss painful to recall.

“When my husband died, it was a huge shock to me,” she remembers. “My whole world shattered.”

“He was so active and vigorous, and we did everything for ourselves. After I lost him, I got very low – I used to go to bed at night hoping I wouldn’t wake up.”

Tough times

The 92-year-old’s loneliness was compounded by deteriorating eyesight, which quickly grew a lot worse over a short period of time.

She said: “It was frightening. I started to find it difficult and stressful to travel outside my home.”

These combined hardships soon became too much for Hilda.

She said: “I’d gone from being independent and happy to depending on people for so many things. It was very hard – I just wanted to die.”

Sympathetic ear

But here’s the thing: Hilda wasn’t quite as alone as she thought.

Once the British Red Cross heard about her plight, they immediately arranged for a support at home volunteer to call around and help. Soon, Rita Carlyon was tapping on Hilda’s door in Wickford, Essex.

Hilda recalled: “Rita was so sympathetic and seemed to understand me. She didn’t push me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with, or try to ‘jolly’ me out of my sadness, but instead just listened.

“We chatted about family, life and the things that interested me. She seemed to enjoy visiting and I soon felt as though I’d known her for years.”

‘Tremendous comfort’

When Hilda mentioned that she loved to knit and crochet, Rita gently encouraged her to visit a local craft club for visually impaired people.

And because she was so nervous about going out, Rita even took her along to help her get settled.

Afterwards, Hilda said: “The club was a real eye-opener. Lots of the younger people there were totally blind, and it was wonderful to see what they could do simply by touch. It really taught me to appreciate the sight I do have.”

Now, at the age of 92, Hilda feels like a new woman all over again. She said: “After two very difficult years, I’m starting to feel better and appreciate how lucky I am, and Rita has had a lot to do with that.”

“I’m so grateful to Rita for encouraging me to go out, and spending so much time with me. She has brought tremendous comfort and I don’t know what I would have done without her.”

Good to talk

This really is a win-win situation because Rita seems to get just as much joy from her role as those she helps.

She said: “Volunteering is so very rewarding. There are so many people out there on their own who don’t really see anyone, so our support makes a huge difference to their lives.”

She added: “Obviously, we help them cope with all kinds of practical matters – such as shopping, paying bills, gardening, visiting the doctor, getting a home help or installing grab rails.

“But above all, I think it’s the conversation and just spending time together that people really value most.”

Find out more about our support at home service.

Want to help? Become a support at home volunteer.

Check out our mobile first aid apps for adults and babies and  children.

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