John Donne, the poet, said that no man is an island unto himself.
We are all part of networks of relationships and communities. Many of the rituals of life are communal activities: being named or christened, getting married, retiring, dying with funeral services and so on. The way we live, die and are supported is often a reflection of the community we live in.
A community needs nurturing and if it is not it will die and there will be nobody to mourn for it – the neighbourhood becomes an emotional and caring desert. A good community offers help but so often relies on volunteers to provide it. We need to be put as much into the volunteering pot as is taken out – it is incumbent on us all to invest in volunteering.
The Chilterns is fortunate that a lot of community help is available and easily accessible. If you have a need, then the organisations below may well be able to help. Again, be prepared! Anticipate, listen to others, know what is available before there is a crisis – it is so much easier.
Your GP or specialist nurse may be able to guide and help in making your end of life decisions. It is vital that they know your wishes particularly with regard to what you want done medically. They will have the necessary forms for you to fill in and once filled can annotate your medical records which can be available for hospitals should you be admitted. Some practices have dedicated staff who can advise and help frail older people or those with cancer. They can also guide you to where you can get help with counselling and bereavement if needed.
As part of their pastoral care many churches and faith groups have a supportive network of volunteers to care for those who are lonely, frail or dying. This support may be very practical, providing meals, visiting or phoning to cope with loneliness as well as giving spiritual care. It is well worth knowing what is available and make yourself known to them.
Voices and Choices is a national organisation with a local branch based in Chesham that helps people stay in their own homes by advising, supporting and working with partner agencies to provide the practical help. They can help as advocates when seeking help from others. Their website and newsletter have a lot of useful information.
Voices and Choices website or 01494 784566
These service guides are very comprehensive and useful. There is one for both Amersham and Chesham. They can be accessed through the Chiltern District Council – Fifty plus website. The services include benefit claims, transport and leisure activities and where to get practical help.
There is a branch of the CAB in both Amersham and Chesham but they are accessed through the same local number. The local CAB website gives the times at which to call for the initial telephone interview and then how your query will be managed. They give wide ranging advice on benefits, housing, healthcare, personal rights and more and if they are not able to they will know someone who can.
Tel: 01494 545991
Are you over 65, living in Amersham or Chesham? The CAB run a home visit service to support those who may not be able to come to their office. For an appointment, phone Max – 07809 408195 or 01494 774748
Age UK is a national organisation with a branch in Aylesbury that covers the whole of Buckinghamshire. It also provides advice on benefits and where to seek practical help, help to live independently with, for example, exercise classes and, importantly, a befriending service to help combat loneliness.
Tel: 01296 431911
Rennie Grove Hospice Care provides hospice care at home in Buckinghamshire and part of neighbouring Hertfordshire as well as a host of ancillary services. They have a palliative care day hospital for patients as well. You have to be referred by your GP to access the services but once a patient they provide a 24hr service if required so that you can remain at home if that is your wish.
Being a charity they rely heavily on donations and local funding.
The Bucks County Council also provide a range of services which can be found on their website. Of particular value are the pages on registering a death and the location of the Registry Offices. They also provide advice on local transport services for the frail and disabled.
Dial a Ride has a Chiltern base in Chesham. It provide free door to door services for those with disabilities or who are unable to use public transport services. The service has to be booked by telephone.
Tel: 01494 766123
The Lins Club’s ‘message in a bottle scheme’ is extremely practical and useful. The messages and papers that are needed, or copies of them, to let people know your wishes, particularly those regarding your health and social care and whether you are an organ donor, are put in the bottle.
The bottle is kept in your fridge and on the inner side of your front door is a green sticker to inform people who have called to care for you or to take you to hospital that the bottle is there with your instructions in it. This is a brilliant and simple way to make sure that those caring for you know your wishes if you are unable to communicate at the time.
Most pharmacies and GP surgeries will have some, or will know where to get one.
CarersBucks is a local organisation whose prime purpose is to support the carers, of whatever age, to help reduce stress and burnout. This way the carers can continue to do the caring if possible which is so often their wish. They provide advice, help with care planning and with carers’ rights amongst other things and where else they can get help. Talking to other people in the same situation is helpful and they can provide mutual support. They can help broker understanding with the person they care for and other professionals.
Email BucksCarers or phone 0300 777 2722
Cruse is a national bereavement organisation with local branches. There is a branch for Amersham and Beaconsfield. They will provide help with complicated bereavement and counselling. They provide good training for those who are chosen to volunteer. They have a help line which can be used for urgent help. Their website has useful advice and stories.
Tel: 01494 766455
Helpline: 0808 808 1677
My Grief Journey is a 6 week course designed for anyone who has lost someone close to them through death. Based on Christian principles, the course is suitable for anyone with or without a Christian faith. The Course is led by Judith and Neil Suggett. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01494 431882.
Ageing Well Without Children (AWWOC) is a Prama Foundation project focussing on the issues facing those ageing without children, whether by choice or through circumstance. See their website
Local pharmacies will have trained staff who can help with providing and delivering your prescriptions if you are not able to get to them. They may well have the Lions Green Bottle.
They have also been trained to advise on minor ailments and save an unnecessary visit to your GP’s surgery. It is wise to find out the services they provide and if required use them.