A SIXTY-seven year old Sunderland man is one of the first in the area to benefit from a new programme designed to wrap care around people who need it most.

Tony Gibson, who lives with cerebral palsy – a condition that affects muscle control and movement – and arthritis had led an active life, employed as a gardener for many years for Sunderland City Council. However his debilitating illnesses, combined with a failed back operation, left Tony, from Grindon confined to his wheelchair and reliant on others for support. Thanks to Sunderland’s pioneering All Together Better programme, Tony is being given a tailored care and support package, that fits around his needs.

Tony receives support and care from his sister and daily visits from carers, however despite this support Tony still felt isolated and unable to get out and about in his local community. With support from a new joined up team of health and social care workers, alongside Age UK Sunderland’s Living Well Links (LWL) team, Tony enjoys a more active social life with a weekly visit from Age UK Sunderland’s Healthy Lifestyle Service, whereby Tony goes out for lunch or a coffee. Tony also frequently attends Age UK Sunderland’s Day Care Centre and with support from a social care team, Tony is having adaptions made to his home to cater for his needs, with ramp access to his property and the widening of his front door to allow ease of access for Tony’s new motorised wheelchair.

Kerry McQuade, Head of Vanguard Sunderland, explains: “Creating the community integrated teams is one of the major elements of the All Together Better programme. As the name suggests, teams of health and social care professionals along with support organisations have been brought together, working on the ground in the community to deliver care and support to those who need it most, in the comfort of their own homes.

Having friendly, human contact is something that so many people in the community need, to lift their spirits and get them back in touch with the world…

Care extends beyond just medical support – through social care and Age UK Sunderland’s (AUKS) LWL team, we are able to better support the emotional and social needs of people, improving their enjoyment and quality of life.

“The vital intervention of all parts of the Community Integrated Team, and in particular the LWL team, has given Tony empowerment, control and independence. These new opportunities create a feeling of wellbeing giving him choice and making a positive impact on social integration.”

The LWL team underpins the work of the wider Community Integrated Teams – of which there are five across the city – often providing a vital social lifeline for many in the city who are unable to get out of the house by helping them to avoid low moods which can lead to further health issues.

“Tony is one of many people in the city who can really benefit from better social care, helping them to retain their links in their local community, and remind them that they’re not alone,” adds Kerry.

“Through All Together Better, we are seeing better integration of care and support teams for those in the city who are most unwell, and the focus is very much on helping people stay in their homes, and live independent, enriched lives, with care wrapped around them.”

Tony, who is a lover of technology, has also been provided with a new care messenger device, that improves his lines of communication with others. Tony’s Care Messenger device allows him to easily keep in touch with his family and carers via his TV just by using his remote control.

Tracy Collins from Age UK Sunderland, explains: “It was clear Tony would benefit from trying out the new Care Messenger service. He is very keen on technology, and what’s great about this device is that he can use it to keep in touch with family, friends and health and social care professionals. It’s a great way to keep in touch when communication is limited through illness, adding real value .”

As well as arranging weekly outings and installing Care Messenger for Tony, the LWL coordinator also helped Tony to manage his arthritis, which can often be incredibly painful for many sufferers. Tony was given advice and support and a device to improve circulation in his hands. Keeping his hands warm, particularly in the colder weather, to avoid his arthritis causing him any additional pain.

Tracy says: “This new care system is about addressing a persons’ every need, and Tony is a great example of someone who has not only benefitted from medical support being tailored to his needs and delivered at home, but that additional social care that is improving his sense of wellbeing. Not only is All Together Better ensuring that he’s well and healthy, but the team that supports him is making sure he’s happy, and keeping him social was a key part of that.

“Having friendly, human contact is something that so many people in the community need, to lift their spirits and get them back in touch with the world. All Together Better’s joined up approach is really helping some of the most vulnerable people in our city to live a fulfilled life, preventing hospital admissions whilst remaining in the comfort of their home by providing truly bespoke care. That’s priceless for people like Tony and the many others we are now helping.”