Hillingdon resident Henry Eames, 99, recommends regular chats to keep yourself youthful.
Henry, who has lived in Hillingdon for 62 years, says: “I value the chats I have with Mariano Lucas, my carer. He visits four days a week, and after making my bed and helping treat my legs, we have time to talk. I often talk to him about the quirks of UK culture. Our lives are very different so we both learn a lot.”
The conversations deliver benefits for Henry’s carer too. Mariano, who lives in Hayes and works as a carer for Avant, says: “I welcome our chats and learn a lot from Henry. We talk about his health – usually very good – but we also talk about how things work in the UK. His advice has helped myself and my family.’
Mariano was born in Goa, India, one of many countries Henry served in during World War II. “I served in India and in the North West Frontier [part of the British Indian Empire], then went to Iraq, Egypt, Tripolitania [a former province of Libya ], Cyprus, Italy and Sicily,” he says.
“Having lived around the world helps you communicate with all kinds of people. As a soldier I lived among the local people and got to know them.”
After the war Henry joined the police force. “I worked as a sergeant at Hayes Police Station, pounding the local streets in the 1960s, and interviewing and training recruits,” he says. “It’s changed a lot – now there are more cars and fewer bobbies on the beat.” Henry, who will be 100 in November, still gets out and about locally with his daughter, who regularly takes him out for lunch.
Stephanie Andrews, field-based manager for Avant in Hillingdon, says: “The social element of care is as important as the physical aspect. Age UK says that the effects of loneliness and isolation can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more damaging than obesity. It’s associated with depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened vascular resistance, hypertension, psychological stress and mental health problems.
“We make it clear to our team of carers that just doing the practical tasks is not really caring – chatting with clients is essential to their wellbeing, and rewarding for both client and carer. Our carers are local to our clients so both start with something in common, and a friendly chat is as good as a tonic.”
Stephanie recommends people seeking care for themselves or relatives to find out what is available locally. As well as Avant, there is useful information on the Hillingdon Carers website and through Age UK’s local office.
If you agree about the importance of communication in care, and want to become a carer, get in touch with Stephanie.