Charity Pilgrim Care employs nurse Cath Carter to deliver person-centred community-based healthcare options, including Health Walks, for elderly residents in St Andrews as part of their Parish Nursing project.
Their project provides care in the community to complement NHS services and recognises that people’s wellbeing requires more than prescriptions and operations but also a need for spiritual care.
Parish Nursing also helps to address the changing demographics of Scotland with more older adults living with long term health conditions, such as dementia.
Providing volunteer led walking groups has been one of the many ways that Cath has offered physical, social, mental wellbeing and spiritual support to those in need.
A Buddy “one to one” walk helps anyone with anxiety or who feels unable to walk in a group to benefit from peer support to help them feel more confident about leaving their house and walking in company for a short distance.
The St David Walk meets at the North East Fife Community Hub for a short walk to the east sands, harbour, pier or up to the cathedral or along the lade brae depending on the wind, weather and preferences of the group.
Meanwhile, the Botanic Garden Walk, which takes in the many scenic routes through the garden’s vast collection of herbaceous borders has received Scottish Walking Charity – Paths for All’s Dementia Friendly Walking accreditation.
The Botanic Gardens Health Walk group received their Dementia Friendly Walking status after training seven Volunteer Walk Leaders to understand more about the long-term condition, that has no cure, and how walking can enable people to live well for as long as possible in their local community. Awareness of cognitive decline and sensory impairments and how they can be addressed on walks was also covered.
One walker, Jim, shares how getting outside has really helped his overall wellbeing. He said: “This Monday Health Walk for me has been a life saver. I spent two and a half years inside, either inside hospital or the four walls of my house, and I was going stir crazy. Someone suggested that I might like to join this walk. It is the best thing I have ever done.
“I have a great day. I look forward to Monday. We have lunch together some of us down at the Hub. The Hub is a big asset.”
Tasks have also been identified that enable walkers to retain a sense of purpose and be a valued part of their community, regardless of their health condition.
For example, one walker takes responsibility for writing name badges as everyone arrives to make everyone feel welcome and equal. This also helps everyone to know each other’s names.
A visually impaired walker is assisted by a fellow walker with dementia through helping them avoid any hazards and talking to them about their life experiences.
Carl Greenwood, Senior Development Officer with Paths for All believes community health care activities, such as Dementia Friendly Health Walks are more necessary now than ever.
He said: “The pandemic has increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation for many adults, with the impact being even greater for anyone with a dementia diagnosis and their carers, many of whom have not had any respite since the start of the pandemic.
“Enabling anyone with a dementia diagnosis to have access to local community services such as Health Walks helps them to be visible in their community. Group walking is an effective way to offer friendship, fun, fresh air and fellowship all for free.”
“Well done to Cath and all the volunteers with Pilgrim Care, St Andrew’s to be at the heart of a caring community at a time when these services are more crucial than ever.”
The welcoming Dementia Friendly Health Walk takes place every Monday at 11am meeting at the entrance to the popular gardens. There is a choice of a longer fast walk or a shorter slow walk on level paths stopping at benches along the way if anyone needs a rest or wants to look closer at the plants.
Everyone is welcome no matter their walking ability including anyone who uses a wheelchair or mobility aid.