The other day I was walking down my street on the way to the station to go to work. As I passed my neighbours a few houses down from my house an old man leaning on his zimmer frame was calling for help from his front door. As I went over, he told me that his wife had had a fall and he needed help.
So, I went in and found his wife on the floor in the front room (their bedroom) where she’d fallen out of bed. She was ok, but dazed and confused so I called an ambulance and made sure they were ok before I left for work. All day I was thinking about them wondering what had happened so on my way home I stopped to check and was greeted with a very different scene – their homecare worker answered the door, they were both dressed and sitting at the table eating dinner. They didn’t know who I was or what had happened that morning, but they were obviously fine and being looked after. I felt slightly uncomfortable being neither a paid worker or family, just a concerned neighbour so I wished them well and left.
It got me thinking… there must be thousands of homes like that around the country where bedrooms and a bathroom are untouched upstairs while people who can no longer use the stairs move beds downstairs and live on the ground floor. There is also a housing crisis – surely there is a way to marry these things up. Well there is: Homeshare. Homeshare matches a householder who can offer accommodation to someone who needs it, with a person who needs a home and can offer a bit of support in return. That support might be a bit of shopping, cooking a meal, changing the lightbulb or be someone to call on when you have a fall. It’s not regulated and homesharers do not provide personal care, but could be coupled with a homecare arrangement if needed. It’s still relatively unknown in the UK, but growing. I was lucky enough to go to the Homeshare International World Congress in Melbourne last year where Homeshare schemes from all over the world were represented. In other places in the world Homeshare is much larger scale and we have a lot to learn from these countries.
I also got to thinking about the power of communities, I’m not unusual or exceptional wanting to help my neighbours and I can’t imagine many people would not go to help when called. With the number of older people rising, and people wanting to stay in their own homes surely we need to harness the power of the community in a coordinated way that makes it ok for neighbours to show concern and look out for each other and for more flexible and personal support solutions like Homeshare and Shared Lives. There is a huge social care crisis but so much is achievable if we harness the power of our communities.