Meet the wonderful Margaret, an individual that has had support from two SCVS Projects during 2020. Margaret and her husband have had the support of a volunteer from the Swansea Dementia and Carer Project, and then as we went into lockdown, from an SCVS Digital Support Project volunteer. Margaret has written about her experiences of the schemes. 

Faggots and daffodils (Swansea Dementia Carer Project)

“There never would have been the episode in my life that I remember as faggots and daffodils if I hadn't been dropped as a hot potato into the hands of Elaine James*. She saw after just one meeting that I needed some sort of break, however short. I think she was also the first to appreciate that Ken and I would not be a suitable couple to be shoehorned into what the prescribed group therapy had on offer. 

Despite my husband's illness, we love being together and are complete in each other. But I can't deny that caring has taken over my whole life. When Elaine visited us for the first time I was coming through 2 cataract operations and Ken had suffered a series of falls simultaneously, a sorry pair being kept afloat on humour and optimism. So when we had the idea of a volunteer befriender put before us my first thought was that he would never leave me. And as for me, I am as protective as a mother with a newborn. How would I feel?

It did not happen overnight. But I agreed to meeting our volunteer, and the gentleman who came was so friendly and sensible that I could see it might be the way forward. We agreed on an outing to Swansea Market, a place where my husband used to go on Saturdays with his mother and which has strong memories for him. As his wife and carer, I decided to make him feel that he was leading the outing by telling him that the volunteer was in training and needed the help of an experienced person to see how he would get on in the town centre. I will use any method I can to maintain Ken's self-worth, bending the truth is just one.

It worked like a dream. Apparently Ken could remember way back and also recalled the traders names. He must have had a good time because he dropped back into his old habit of bringing me a treat  back from a boys day out. Hence the faggots and daffodils. Only a man who is sure of his welcome home would conjure up such a combination.

But I loved it, the whole idea of him remembering his old habits shows me that my husband is still as he was deep down.

We had grand plans for Tuesday afternoon trips so that I could go to my Sisterhood meeting again, but by the following week we were in lockdown. Even if we are never allowed out again, I know his last sortie was one he enjoyed, and one I shall never forget.”

*Elaine James is the Officer for the SCVS Swansea Dementia and Carer Project, which provides people living with dementia, and their carers, an opportunity to engage socially in the community, access community resources with the support of a volunteer; as well as reducing isolation and offering a listening ear to those it supports.

If you’re worried about your memory, concerned about a family member or friend, caring for someone living with dementia, and are registered with a GP Practice in Swansea; get in touch with Elaine James on 07908 742718 or email [email protected] to access support from the project. You can also find out more about the project here

SCVS Digital Support Project

“On 17th May 2017 I was given my husband's diagnosis. I had been asking medics to look at him for 8 years. By 2016 I was seeing any one new who might listen, when into the Practice came Dr XXX. Recognising the situation, she took up our case, and tried to help me. She sent through the post a sheaf of A4 prints on getting me on line, because she knew the isolation I was going to be facing in the years ahead unless I was digitally connected. My husband turned the idea down flat, afraid our savings would disappear at the press of a button. 

So I tried to get to a class. But where to go? I have a severe mobility problem, so steps were out. I needed parking very close. I needed reliable transport. All mission impossible. 

There was never one person to take me forward; then well into summer 2017 a lady… connected to Bryn House, rang and had a chat about going to a class on Friday mornings in Pontardulais. Dr XXX had made it possible for me to approach the Community Car people, so I agreed. I was so sure that I would be going to the lovely little walk-in Library at Pontardulais that the shock of landing up outside the flight of steps to Canolfan nearly floored me. However, there was … waiting for me, and I was too polite to withdraw. We dragged me up the delivery slope, and in I went. Week after week.

I absolutely loved it, although I was completely at sea, having only used a bit of Word as a typewriter and an in house programme up to 1991, when I retired. But I had nothing to practise on, so looked for help, someone who could shepherd me getting online, what appliance to buy, sort out installation and setting me up generally. And I found there is no one to do that. The answer is always..... Your CHILDREN can help you with that. Well, at 86 as I was at the time, and with no children after 60 odd years of marriage , the thought of IVF and a new baby in the house would certainly mean I would never get on line! And Dr XXX had moved on!!!

I took the plunge, got a Tablet ordered in the New Year sales, collared a chap in BT, and paid a professional to come in and bring the Tablet to life once I was online. And I got taken to the cleaners, as any novice will. After he left I couldn't even turn the thing on and ended up crying. And charged an arm and leg for the privilege of being old and ignorant.

That year I relied heavily on my class tutor, and …, missing big chunks of the course time to have both cataracts done. By the time I was ready to go back, lockdown was looming.

We were contacted throughout lockdown by Elaine (James, Swansea Dementia Carer Project), and I told her how, although I wasn't much good, I was relying on my Tablet for outside contact.

When I suggested that there should be a buddying system for Oldies to become more proficient, before I knew where I was she had arranged that I should go on a Zoom meeting telling a group of people I did not know from Adam how much we Oldies needed a home help service for shaky silver surfers.

(What they didn't know was I had only Zoomed once before, the previous Sunday. My Chapel secretary had installed the app for me sitting in our porch to observe lockdown! My ignorance was truly blissful. My confidence brazen, looking back.)

But out of all that, I now have the sort of help I could not find in 2017. I now have a consultation with Amy my volunteer tutor, arranged through Elaine James and the SCVS Digital Support Project.

Once a week, we have a telephone tutorial tailor-made to my needs. I list my failures for the week, I get corrected, I start new projects, I can ask daft questions and I have made a wonderful connection with a lady who feels the need to volunteer to help such as me. And there are us lot of us around, frightened, discouraged and side-lined. If they could only know how wide their horizon could be, just by taking the first stages with personalised help.

If only I had been able to access such support in 2017, life would have been easier. I play YouTube music for my husband as part of his therapy now. He loves it. And he also is very sure that no one can lose all our savings on a little Tablet. Crooks can only get into the big ones on desks. And he is happy with that, the dear boy, just a little fib. And I make no apologies for keeping him happy, with the help of Samsung, Amy and Elaine. A trio that facilitates change for the better.”

About the SCVS Digital Support project

One to one support to help people get to grips with technology - As a response to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, SCVS, in partnership with Digital Communities Wales, is supporting its community by offering a range of services including digital support to people at home or isolating.

We provide trained volunteers to offer weekly support over the phone for people who would like some help with using unfamiliar technology (for example tablets, phones or laptops) and who can show them how new digital tools can make this difficult time easier and less isolating.

Our volunteers have helped people with online shopping, ordering prescriptions online, using different programmes to connect with friends and family; all helping to build people’s confidence with using technology.

If you know anyone who would benefit from this volunteer support, please contact Rachael Jenkins at SCVS on [email protected] / 07854 819011 / or email [email protected]. You can also find out more about the project here