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Maureen's story: 'Volunteer made world of difference'

When disabled pensioner Maureen Gallagher (77) needed extra support at home following a hospital stay, her son Keith was at a loose end – until the Red Cross stepped in to help. Here’s their story:

My mother hadn’t been well for a while, but a few months ago she had a stroke and had to stay in hospital for a while.

She wasn’t given a care package once she was discharged, so I found myself in the role of carer – doing her shopping and cooking. This situation worked okay for a while but then I was offered a full-time job, which meant I’d have to be out all the time.

Fortunately, I’m a Red Cross volunteer, and when I mentioned the situation to a colleague she just said: ‘Haven’t you thought of using us?’ I hadn’t realised, but the Red Cross in my area provides a support at home service that’s tailor-made for vulnerable people such as my mother.

Rebuilding confidence

Setting up things was really easy. The Red Cross asked what we needed and drew up a personal care plan for my mother, then a lovely carer called Lesley started regularly calling round. She drove my mother to and from hospital appointments, kept her company in the waiting room and also took her out shopping – which was hugely important.

You see, becoming unwell had really knocked my mother’s confidence. She’d had a panic attack on her last shopping trip six months earlier and was scared of going out, which meant she was just sitting at home all day.

But once Lesley started encouraging her to go out again, all the old confidence and sense of fun came flooding back. My mother also struck up a wonderful friendship with Lesley and the other carers who occasionally called round. When I spoke to her neuro-psychologist, he remarked on her improvement and said going to the Red Cross was the best thing we could have done.

Friendly visits

A couple of months ago, just as my mother was getting better, her house was burgled while she was at home. It was a very traumatic time, but again the Red Cross was right in the thick of things. The carer drove her to the police station for the identity parade and was a real godsend throughout the whole process. It was a horrible time but the Red Cross’ constant support made everything more bearable.

I think the Red Cross' service is second to none. We’ve both been really impressed, and I’ve also recommended it to other organisations I’m involved with. For me, the best thing has been the befriending aspect of the service. When someone is alone a lot and lacking confidence, having regular visits from a warm, friendly person makes a world of difference.

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