Knitting through a Pandemic

B, 93 and truly an unsung hero! 

 Here is my beautiful and dear friend B, 93. Her porch is the perfect place to sit and knit with the front door open, protecting her in the warmth of the bungalow, but also allowing the sunshine in.

For many years, she has kept herself gainfully employed (for free) knitting and generously donating countless little hats and shawls, forearm sleeves and tiny comforters for premature babies at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Since Lockdown, she has been doing the same thing for the babies in Addenbrookes Hospital Neonatal Unit. Doing it gives meaning to her life and stops her from getting too bored. She has also knitted a number of wonderful jumpers for my grandson with great love – and which we love. With no Mum of my own to knit for him there is something super special about a surrogate Great Grandmum’s handiwork.

Whenever I visit B on sunny days, this is where I will always find her. She leaves a foldaway deckchair for me outside on the path and I sit (at a safe social distance of course) and we chat and laugh together for an hour or more.

She had a very sad and challenging upbringing and many more difficult experiences as an adult, many of which I have had the privilege of listening to, but I have never heard her complain once. She is full of wisdom, kindness and spirit and is a SuperAdult in every respect.

Sarah Reed, April 2020. 


Delivering goodies and happiness to isolated older people in lockdown

Unsung Heroes in Norfolk: Sally Whitworth 

Here is Sally Whitworth with her beloved labrador, Pongo. She is one of our fantastic ReEngage tea hosts for the area, as well as a regular monthly driver. Since lockdown, we have been unable to hold teas, but that hasn’t stopped her generosity… Here yet another delivery of delicious Bake Off!-worthy, homemade cakes (this week it was banana loaf and lemon drizzle) await in the basket.

All the oldest old in our small community have received two slices of mouth-watering cake every week, delivered with great affection and boundless cheerfulness by Sally. No mean feat, as there are nearly twenty people on her list. She has been doing this since lockdown on 24 March, maintaining the Government’s Covid19 rules scrupulously, with gloves and a garden stake which doubles up to hang the basket, while providing appropriate social distance.

Then at Easter, she delivered bags of Easter eggs to everyone, with a personal hand-written label on each, written by her 5 and 7 year-old great niece and nephew.

“I really enjoy doing it”, she says, “– and it stops me eating them all! Mind you, Pongo would have the lot, given half a chance.”

The Unsung Heroes

Caring well for our most vulnerable has never been harder, nor more necessary.

Care home managers, nurses and care staff, domiciliary care workers, freelance activity providers, unpaid family carers, including spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandchildren, and volunteers. ¬All of them are the unsung heroes of the care system in this country.

The news is all so negative. We need to hear the voices of these exhausted people, many close to breaking point, and make them visible.

For these people, whose care work is largely invisible to the wider world, yet so relationship-centred, the government has offered little protection, comfort, coping strategies or counselling, and until the devastating figures could be ignored no longer – virtually no recognition. These carers may have to face the death of those they work with, those they care for, as well as their own families, poorly supported except by one another. The government and its agencies have offered little or no re-assurance, encouragement, psychological comfort, bereavement support. Carers are expected to just get on with the job, regardless. Let’s remember, many are vulnerable themselves.

Unpaid family carers are no better supported, often struggling to cope in highly challenging circumstances. A person living with advanced dementia requires round-the-clock care and assistance. Most are elderly and for many, their spouse who might be older still, may be their main carer. Assuming they have help, if any of the care team are unable come because of self-isolation symptoms or being unwell themselves, there may be no one to come at all. However, if the person lives alone, as many do these days, there may be no one to support them at all. Families are locked down, may live miles away, may not be able to cope themselves, may have little or no relationship with the person.

Are older people’s lives or those of social care staff worth less? And if so, why? And why are they regarded as second-class carers? The reality is that many carers and those they care for have been abandoned to this virus simply because of years of inadequate and diminishing social care funding, and because they are old are deemed unable to contribute to society.