Tracey is a member of the Wessex MS Therapy Centre, based in Warminster, and was diagnosed with MS fifteen years ago and had lived in Warminster all her life. The progression of her MS was rapid, and Tracey could no longer look after herself and was moved into a nursing home in the neighbouring town of Frome. One of her friends in Warminster noticed the MS Centre and asked us if we could help Tracey who was isolated in a town where she didn’t know anyone and was in a care home that primarily looked after people with dementia.
Tracey had very little support and no transport to get her to the Therapy Centre. Because she uses a wheelchair and has very little use of her hands, if she wanted to come to the therapy centre she would need to have a carer with her. This all seemed pretty insurmountable and even though our Welfare Assistant visited Tracey in the care home there seemed to be too many obstacles in her way. Fortunately, a different charity in Frome offered Tracey a volunteer carer and so now Tracey just needed to find the transport.
During this time the Therapy Centre was organising a new volunteering opportunity by creating MS Buddies. The idea is that people with MS, who have become socially isolated in their homes due to a relapse or worsening condition, get a visit once a week from a Buddy that they can have on a day to suit them. During their visit they can help with anything the person wants, or they can just visit and have a cup of tea and a chat. However, lots of the buddies do help with small chores - one of the buddies takes his buddy shopping on a regular basis, another has sorted out clothes for a charity shop and others get taken on walks on sunny days.
Fortunately, we managed to recruit an MS Buddy who has his own wheelchair accessible car and he was able to drive to Frome, collect Tracey and her carer and bring them both to the Therapy Centre were Tracey now receives regular physiotherapy.
Tracey has said this is life changing for her and she really enjoys spending time with other people her own age and loves the fun she has in the physiotherapy gym.
In November 2017 the Wessex Centre won the QuDoS award for Innovation in Care in MS, in recognition of it's MS Buddies scheme.
The QuDoS in MS – Recognising Quality in the Delivery of Services in Multiple Sclerosis – recognition programme is a pharmaphorum initiative supported by the MS Trust and sponsored by a number of pharmaceutical companies.
QuDoS in MS highlights innovation and excellence in MS care management and service delivery, recognising the valuable contribution of individuals and teams in improving the quality of life and experience of care for those with MS.
The judging panel comprises recognised clinicians, academics, nurses and patient representatives in the field of MS.
This national recognition demonstrates the real difference that this local initiative has had on those who use it. Indeed, Jo Sopala, Director of Development at the MS Trust, said of the scheme:
“The MS Buddy Scheme, developed by Wessex MS Therapy Centre was a clear winner in this year’s QuDoS Innovation in Care category. It is a simple yet extremely innovative service tackling the issues of social isolation, something which could be rolled out across other parts of the country. We look forward to seeing this service go from strength to strength.”
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