My first experience of being an ELF at home visitor was really fulfilling, but also to my surprise, fun! Pam, a 92 year old widow, had asked for a visitor because she felt lonely. She had two loving daughters, but they both lived far away, keeping in touch with regular phone calls and occasional visits when possible. Pam was frail, needed monthly blood transfusions and relied upon care workers for two visits a day to help with her personal care.
I was soon to discover that despite her difficulties, she was always positive and fun to be with. Still mentally very able and intelligent, she was happy to talk about a wide range of things that interested her: events in the news, family, past memories, cooking and painting. Sadly she was unable to continue with her hobbies but the evidence of her artistic skills could be seen on the walls in her house. When Pam was deemed no longer able to drive, she became housebound and dependent on others to take her out. This was one of the things she wanted from me as her Elf visitor and on alternate visits, I was willing and able to drive her to the local supermarket, the garden centre for lunch, a working mill for afternoon tea or to her favourite department store to go clothes shopping!
She thoroughly enjoyed these outings and we had many enjoyable chats and laughs. On visits where we stayed in her home, I made us tea and we talked and talked. She was very interested in my news, my hobbies and my family and was often ready with good advice based on her own life experience. Our relationship quickly became friendship and I always looked forward to visiting her.
When I had been visiting her for eight months, she had a fall in the night and broke her wrist. This led to a further loss of independence and a lengthy stay in hospitals and care homes during which time she caught flu and infections that often left her very poorly and sometimes confused. I voluntarily visited her more frequently and at times I had to speak up for her and explain her needs. Pam hated her loss of independence and as she began to recover, started to regain her feisty attitude. She was adamant she wanted to go home despite her daughters' concerns.
When she returned home, they organised three personal care visits a day, but soon Pam herself had begun to realise that she needed more care, and after another short spell in hospital due to illness, she decided to move to a care home near one of her daughters. I was sad to have to say goodbye but pleased that she had made her own decision about her life and that she would be safer and well-looked after.
On reflection I believe I got as much out of the relationship as Pam did. I thoroughly enjoyed her company and found visiting her very rewarding. In return she benefited from having some company and received very necessary emotional and practical support. I miss her, but am really looking forward to my next ELF patient!