Staying Connected Through Isolation Times

In this post I thought I’d share with you some of the fantastic work that one of our bold partners, the Eric Liddell Centre, is doing to alleviate the isolation and loneliness of people across the city of Edinburgh during the lockdown.
The Eric Liddell Centre is a local care charity and community hub founded in 1980 in memory of the 1924 Olympic 400m gold medallist, Eric Liddell. The bold project was delighted to partner with the Centre and through the leadership of its CEO, John MacMillan, it has been a source of practical support, knowledge and inspiration. The Centre shares our commitment to changing perceptions of living with dementia and to creating the conditions so that individuals and families can flourish. By developing a range of many valuable services, including a specialist dementia day care service, carers programme, befriending programme, lunch club friendship group and Caring Soles (foot care) Service, the Centre has shown that living a full life can be achieved with the right support.

Covid 19 constitutes a particular threat to older people living with dementia and carers and lockdown introduces distinctive challenges. The Eric Liddell staff members have developed a range of innovative approaches and enlisted volunteers to enable them to continue to provide important care and support and help people to stay connected through these difficult times – and they has done this at speed.

The dementia day care service has been making daily wellbeing and day/date orientation telephone calls to all people living with dementia who would usually attend the Centre, especially those living alone. Any concerns raised or picked up on during these calls are passed to the manager for resolution and forwarded to Social Care Direct if required. As people living with dementia may have difficulty remembering who staff are over the phone, visual prompts have been sent out by post in the form of an introduction letter with a staff / volunteer photo.

Other types of practical support include medication prompts, plus prescription collection from the pharmacy, shopping for essential items and a laundry service for people who would otherwise struggle. And there is a regular door drop of activity packages containing books, crosswords, Sudoku, adult therapy art books and pens, with many of the items donated by individuals and groups from the local community.

The Centre is also making weekly wellbeing telephone calls to carers both to check that the needs of the person living with dementia are being met and that carers are coping with an increased caring role. Alongside this, the befriending programme is now carrying out all befriending ‘matches’ over the phone. Befriending matches from before lockdown have continued and others have started. Although primarily for carers of people living with dementia, the programme is managing to support a few people living with dementia too. An intergenerational element has also come in during lockdown, with several Duke of Edinburgh students from a neighbouring school coming forward to be ‘friendly chat’ volunteers.
Martha Pollard, the support and education coordinator, has been busy compiling and sending out a newsletter each week called ‘The Isolation Times’. This is designed primarily for members of the lunch club friendship group that people living with dementia and carers attended together each week before lockdown. Martha has been phoning everyone on the day they would usually come to the lunch club to check in with them, and they all receive a hard copy of the newsletter posted out to them. It’s also circulated by email to the wider network of around 500 carers.

This is a delightful resource and an uplifting read, full of cheerful poems, photos from the archives, artworks and photos of nature, fun quizzes and exercise ideas. Every week there have been responses, contributions and ideas from readers, both by way of conversation and for future issues. For instance, one lunch club member had been clearing out old boxes and discovered a heartfelt poem that his daughter had written about her mother and sent it on to Martha to include in the next issue.

In addition to finding ways to continue supporting everyone already connected with the Centre, a new lunch delivery programme is available to individuals and families across Edinburgh who are vulnerable in some way and who would benefit from a little bit of extra support via the provision of a healthy and wholesome lunch at this difficult time.

The lunch delivery programme obtained funding from the Celtic FC Foundation’s Football for Good initiative This enabled the Centre’s chef Fiona to continue to run the Café Connect kitchen Monday to Friday, as well as regularly posting her delicious cookbook recipes on Twitter! The Centre’s neighbour, Signature Pub Group’s McClaren’s on the Corner then offered to work in partnership by opening up its kitchen, with the Signature chefs brigade only too happy to step in, sharing their expertise and doubling capacity. All that was needed was a quick call from John MacMillan for volunteers to distribute the lunches and the excellent coordination skills of Zsofia. The programme got up and running in a matter of days and stated on 6th April. It has since benefited from additional contributions from local businesses. Recent food donations have been made by Tesco Bruntsfield store and 181 Delicatessen, and a volunteer has been busy making protective masks. The programme is now delivering around 500 healthy cooked lunches each week and looks set to continue through the current lockdown.

I’ve been volunteering with the lunch delivery programme since it started and I’ve been getting so much out of it. I’ll share my experiences in a future post. There is so much good work going on across Scotland to support people living with dementia and carers to stay connected through these ‘Isolation Times’. Please share with us what you are doing by emailing: