Picture of local residents Brian Booth and his daughter Sue Fenyn, with PICS’ Rose Severn on the left.
Long read case study
‘Aeroplane-mad’ Brian joined the RAF in the 1950’s and served for four years in Malta, Norfolk and Doncaster.
“I had to sign the official secrets act because I worked on Valiant bombers when they were top secret. I was there at the Suez fiasco of 1956. You never forget things like that.”
Brian was a trained electrician and after the RAF, worked for the National Coal Board, Currys, was self-employed, and retired at age 55. As well as raising their family, Mary and Brian were keen metal detectorists, travelling Europe in their caravan for over 40 years and helping raise thousands of pounds for charity over the years. Mary was particularly accomplished, finding a bejewelled engraved gold ring from the 1400s and an Elizabethan gold coin on the remains of a medieval jousting site.
Brian’s experience of support for Veterans and Carers, in his own words:
My wife is not very well with dementia. My two daughters and I look after my wife as her Carers.
For one hour a week, I have a release by going to the weekly veterans breakfast in Warsop. Rose comes in to chat and ask anyone if they want help. She asked me ‘how are you’, so I told her about one or two problems I had.
My daughters wanted to take their families on holiday, but we couldn’t find any help so I was worried about being left to care for my wife on my own. I didn’t think I could manage.
Rose found us a respite care home that would take both my wife and me. I had to fill in a few questionnaires and forms so Rose came to my house to help us get them done.
Rose sorted everything out and was very, very helpful. By knowing people and knowing the way rounds, she got it sorted. She seems to have her finger on the button for a lot of things.
Mary and I went to the Nightingale at Edwinstowe for one week while our daughters took their families on holiday. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like a holiday for us two as well.
We both slept in the same beautiful room and the staff in there were fantastic, caring for Mary so I could have a break. We were chatting with people all the time and we became part of the nursing home life. The wife enjoyed it very much, she was looking round and seeing what’s happening.
What’s changed for you and your family?
We didn’t know which way to turn before I met Rose. As carers, we’ve just looked after Mary and just got on with life. But it’s not till you need help and then you realise you don’t know anything and no one knows you’re a carer.
Now we are registered as a carer with our local GP surgery. We’ve been assessed and we’re in the system. Two ladies come in twice a day to help Mary get up and then ready for bed. Myself and my eldest daughter always did it, and it had been taking it’s toil on us.
My life is a lot easier now. I can relate to things better. Being a carer is a lonely situation and we didn’t see a lot of people at all. But now we have carers coming in and there’s always a bit of jolly and such.
Rose is trying to get us to arrange another break and take part in another group and she’s always telling us about things.
My advice to others is to join a group, irrespective of what it is. It’s amazing what the outcome of it is.”
Rose Severn, PICS Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker in Mansfield North Primary Care Network
We know that a lot of veterans are affected by poor mental health, so I often go to Veteran Breakfasts to ask how people are and provide support.
I helped Brian and is wife to source and locate respite care for one week while his daughters went on holiday with their families. I completed care plans to support the couple’s transition and followed up after the stay to see how they settled in.
Mary got her personal care needs met and Brian also enjoyed some freedom and company. They both gained different experiences from their stay, and even had relatives coming to see them for a visit.
Rose shares tips on how she engages with individuals who attend community groups.
There tends to be a lot of friendly banter at the group or during the green space walks, which you can engage with and this will really help you make connections.
Some members are chatty and others less vocal, so finding out from them their hobbies and interests can give you a good sense of their personalities.
Sometimes just a quick ‘check in’ question will encourage people to talk and reminisce and share any worries they have. ‘How are you?” “How are you getting over that operation?” opens up an opportunity to talk about their progress.
A timely question also helps to assess if they need additional support, food or fuel at a specific time like over the recent cold spell or closer to Christmas when money may be tight.
Rose explains the value of researching the shared interest of the group.
You can ask when the next event is planned in their Veteran calendars, and ask about traditions and how they plan to be involved in the special occasion. I often just ask as I do not know all the procedures and timings of special parades. Just making a link to an article in the news or the local Remembrance Parade builds on those connections and it gives you an opportunity to revisit this conversation at the next meeting.
Any lessons learned?
I once made the mistake of reminding a group of veterans to arrive at 11.50am for a 12.00 noon walk and I didn’t realise that was not what you do. ’The ship will have sailed if they arrived late’, was how they explained it to me.
The main thing I have learnt is to be prepared for being scrutinised and made fun of, and not to take offence or blush easily. The people in the groups I attend have the most wicked sense of humour and sarcasm! There is often a joke in every situation and even a photo shoot will take double the time to attempt to take a decent photo.
More about Veteran-Aware status
The Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) works with NHS healthcare providers in England to help them provide the best standards of care for the armed forces community, ensuring that members are treated fairly. Building on success in hospital and community trusts, the programme piloted Veteran Aware accreditation for the independent sector and hospices, to which PICS signed up to. Details on the VCHA are on its website: veteranaware.nhs.uk
General Practice Surgeries can also achieve the Veteran-Aware accreditation through a similar scheme that is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners. All of PICS surgeries have completed the accreditation process. More: picsnhs.org.uk/veteran-friendly-accreditation/