Our new outreach Service has started
COVID-19 has had unimaginable consequences for people with a lifelong condition like multiple sclerosis. Whilst the lockdown and self-isolation measures were needed to keep people safe, those who were shielding faced new challenges. Their physical fitness and mobility suffered as a result of not having regular access to physiotherapy and exercise classes. Lack of oxygen treatment also left them with worsening eyesight, exhaustive fatigue and endless bladder problems. Worsening symptoms and a lack of contact with others also had a detrimental effect on their mental health too.
We tried everything we could to keep in contact with our members through the use of technology; running online exercise classes, starting up Facebook groups and conducting physio appointments by video call. But what about those people who didn’t have access to a computer or tablet at all? We posted information out to people we knew were not online and made regular phone calls to those who most needed it. We also had a buddy scheme where volunteers could call members for a friendly chat to help them feel less isolated. And now we have a number of tablets available on loan to try to get as many of our members online as possible.
Since reopening, we have started a pilot programme of home visits to a small number of members who simply didn’t have the technology to keep in regular contact with us, and their lack of mobility has meant that they felt unable to get to the Centre for treatment. Nikky Meeson, one of our senior physiotherapists, visited a couple of members last week to assess their physical mobility and provide support and advice to make it possible for them to come to the Centre for treatment again. Just getting out of the house and having contact with others will help to improve their mental wellbeing too. One of the people she visited was Liz, who had not been to the Centre since March. She said
Nikky’s visit to me was the breakthrough I needed to return to the Centre.
Liz wasn’t receiving the weekly emails from the Centre as she didn’t have the use of a computer, but she did have regular calls with Nikky. Before lockdown, the two or three visits a week for classes were not only her activity but her social network too. Having this suddenly stop affected both her physical and mental health and over time she made the decision that she would not come back to the Centre.
If it hadn’t been for Nikky’s visit I would not have come back to the Centre, she made me realise the reality of not having the Centre as a resource
When asked why telephone calls did not have the same impact, she said
You can hide behind the telephone and say yes to things that you know you won’t do. But to have a face to face conversation meant I could not hide. Psychologically it was really helpful to allow reasoned reflection. I came to the face-to-face class today with Steph and although I found it tough emotionally and physically it was important that I made the step forward.
As well as giving confidence to return to the Centre, the visits are a chance to assess their physical needs and correct any bad habits that have formed over the past few months. They can also be shown things they can do themselves at home to help improve their mobility. Something that was well-received by another member, Peter. He said:
During the lockdown we have all be separated from our support mechanisms in some way. Even now with limited resources available we still can be isolated.
Nikky’s visit to me at home was so reassuring. She was able to see what I had been doing that was correct and those things that perhaps weren’t perfect. Then reminding me of all the things I could be doing to help myself.
I consider myself to be a confident person but the constant barrage of news and the concern of loved ones to wrap you in cotton wool had taken its toll. So, a reasoned voice to tell me how to improve what I am doing and reassurance to push myself was just the boost I needed.
We have only been able to provide this vital service thanks to part of the funding we received from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, which has enabled our services to continue this year. Thanks to the Government for making this possible.
The pilot will continue for the next few weeks. If you would like to be considered for a home assessment please call 01296 696133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org