A Bridgend woman in her seventies who repeatedly considered ending her life during lockdown has praised the services of BAVO (Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations) Community Navigator scheme, describing her contact there as “an angel without wings”.
Like many elderly members of the community, Pauline* has found life during the Covid pandemic incredibly difficult as she lives alone and has no close friends or family nearby.
She first reached out to the community support service run by BAVO in April last year to ask for help with her shopping and picking up her prescriptions, but it soon became apparent to the Community Navigators team that Pauline* needed more support.
As Kay Harries, Operations and Partnerships Manager of the BAVO Community Navigators service, explains: “Our team’s role as Community Navigators is to signpost anyone living in Bridgend County Borough who needs help with their health and wellbeing, to access the right support within the community.
“We originally helped Pauline* with a basic service that we were offering to anyone who needed it when the first lockdown started, signposting her to a local community facility that would provide essential shopping, prescription pick-ups and some hot meals. We also put her in touch with a local volunteer who would do a bigger food shop for her and drop it to her every week.
“We kept in touch with Pauline* as lockdown went on and although she was having the support with her basic needs, she still felt extremely lonely and cut off from the world so we put her in touch with Age Cymru as well as our telephone befriending service Community Companions.
“We continued to make regular calls to check in on her but one of our navigators got really concerned when one day, Pauline* started expressing suicidal thoughts. She said that she’d been considering the best way to end it all. She felt that the only thing that was keeping her here was concern about what would happen to her dog. After chatting for some time, the navigator managed to calm her down and immediately referred her to the Older Person’s Mental Health Pathway, who were a great help.
“Over the summer, as restrictions eased and whilst keeping in touch, Pauline* was signposted to helpful local community services to get help with her laundry and waste removed. She seemed much more positive but she had multiple health issues including diabetes and her general health was deteriorating. At that point, she was referred to receive support from a social worker and a case meeting with the GP was arranged, so the team felt happy that she was getting all the help she needed.
“Earlier this month, a call came to the Community Navigators out of hours emergency service. The lady was clearly distressed, saying “I don’t want to die alone.” Our navigator recognised the voice straight away. It was Pauline*.
“After a long conversation with her, where she kept asking what arrangements could be made for her dog if she were to have to go into hospital, our navigator promised her that something would be sorted out with a local animal shelter that offers respite care for pets, after first making a call to 999 to get medical help to her as soon as possible.
“The rapid response paramedics had got to her just in time. She was about to fall into a diabetic coma and had to be treated immediately.
“We are just so glad that she thought to call the BAVO out of hours number and that a navigator who was already familiar with her situation was able to pick up the call as they immediately knew how serious the situation was.”
Pauline’s* health has improved dramatically since then and she is now feeling much better in herself. She has nothing but praise for the service she has received from the BAVO Community Navigators team and Community Navigator, Gail Devine.
“Last year I was in a dark place and think I would have been long gone if it wasn’t for Gail and the organisations she was able to put me in touch with. I just felt that I was falling through the cracks and until I was given their number, I had no-one to turn to for help and support.
“I’m a fighter and I try to manage as best I can but when I’m really struggling, it’s so good to know that they are there to help with practical things. Gail knows that I will only ring if I’m desperate but she always knows what to do and will do whatever she can to help me. I really don’t know where I’d be without her. She’s my angel without wings!”
During the pandemic the Community Navigators have had to adjust their ways of working, through responding to the Covid crisis but Pauline’s* story is just one example of how vital the service has been for vulnerable people in these challenging times.
“Pauline’s* prolonged contact with the service has been longer than we anticipated, as it has been almost a year now, but due to the pandemic nothing has really been normal this year, has it?” Gail said.
“Although we usually keep in touch with people to check all is going well after signposting them to the right support, we do not tend to stay involved long-term. However, these past months we have been keeping in contact with people for much longer than we usually would have, like in Pauline’s* case, it’s been clear that certain people have needed our help in a variety of ways throughout the pandemic.”
“The service has been a real lifeline to her and to many other local vulnerable people, through working with community partners, and I’m thrilled to have been able to play a part in helping them through this horrible time.”
The BAVO Community Navigators project is one example being highlighted by Welsh Government in its Help Us Help You campaign to show how people can access the most appropriate support services within the local community.
To help the NHS as the pandemic continues, it is essential that you access the right service in the right way, depending on your symptoms. You can often get the help you need without a trip to the GP or the Emergency department, freeing up the emergency medical teams to concentrate on people with urgent, life-threatening conditions.
Broken bones, sprains and minor burns can all be treated effectively in a Minor Injury Unit and pharmacies are a key service if you are feeling unwell or have minor health concerns. If you need out of hours health information or advice, NHS 111 Wales is available 24 hours a day every day. Simply dial 111 or visit www.111.wales.nhs.uk.
If you need care for an urgent life-threatening condition, you should still call 999.
If you have Covid-19 symptoms no matter how mild, self-isolate and book a test.
* Real name changed to protect identity.