04 July 2011

Northamptonshire County Council is launching a campaign to help more older people to live independently instead of needing specialist support such as residential or home care.

Called ‘I Didn’t Realise’, the campaign will highlight to older people and their families what support is available from the council and other organisations to help them live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

It also aims to help people understand what help is available that they can access themselves and how they can find support and solutions that often do not cost very much money, for example by obtaining a mobility aid, joining a social group or by simply going online for information.

The campaign has also been designed to help tackle the three main contributors to residential care for older people – depression, dementia and falls – by giving them information about what support is available and what steps they can take to reduce the likelihood of needing hospital care.

The I Didn't Realise message has been developed following discussions with customers and residential care managers which showed that many people did not realise what advice or help is available.

County council cabinet member for health and adult social services Councillor Robin Brown said: “Many older people lead active, independent lives and are able to take care of themselves with the right support in place. They have told us that they do not want to live in residential care and would prefer to stay living in their own homes, in their local communities, in familiar and comfortable surroundings.

“Not only is residential care not the first choice for many older people, it is also a far more expensive option. In fact, it costs the council around £1,000 per month for each person it places in residential care.

“So it makes good sense to ensure people know what support and help is out there to enable them to continue to live independently in their homes. This support might be something as simple as getting Telecare or safety equipment installed or by having mobility aids fitted. For example, having a handrail fitted, which is a relatively cheap option, can transform an older person’s life by making it easier and safer for them to use the stairs.

“Of course, ensuring older members of our community can continue to live independently in their own homes isn’t just about the equipment in their houses. It’s also about ensuring that they do not become isolated or lonely and so this campaign also aims to make everyone aware of the value a visit to an elderly neighbour or relative can have as well as encourage them to join community groups and take part in social activities. These are small things we can do that will make a big difference.”

The campaign is aimed at older people themselves and the family members who are often responsible for planning care for their relatives as well as health and social care professionals who give advice about the support available.

It includes posters, Facebook advertising and an email to county residents telling them about how and where they can access advice and support if they are responsible for an elderly relative. Anyone receiving the email is encouraged to pass it on to help spread the message to as many people as possible.

Councillor Brown said: “Many of us who are responsible for the care of our elderly relatives might not know what options are available other than residential care. Of course, for some residential care may still be the best choice, but we want to make sure that those people who would prefer to stay at home can continue to do so and understand what support is available out there to help them.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about how people can be supported to live independently can go to www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/realise

People can also contact the Northamptonshire Centres for Independent Living in Corby (01536) 266 192 or Northampton (01604) 588 501.