When 65 year old veteran Ken lost his eyesight temporarily, he and his wife Gina found help from several organisations, including the Defence Medical Welfare Service, within the Unforgotten Forces Project.

Ken served in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for 4.5 years before he left the service in 1977. After his army career Ken and his wife Gina successfully ran their own pub. Unfortunately, in 2008 Gina had an accident and developed Myelopathy, a degenerative neurological condition related to the spinal cord, which leaves her in a lot of pain. Her condition means that she uses a mobility scooter and is partly dependent on Ken to help her around the house. Despite the help, Gina had several falls and there is a need for house adaptations to make it safer.

A few months ago Ken had to go to hospital for routine treatment to help with his detreating eyesight (Macular Degeneration). Unexpectedly, Ken lost his eyesight temporarily after the treatment. Gina contacted SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, to find out what kind of support is available to them. SSAFA advised Gina to contact Fares4Free, a charity that encourages taxi drivers to give up to 4 of their fares every month to help veterans, so that she could visit Ken in hospital. SSAFA also provided some future transport funding if they needed to return to hospital. Fares4Free referred Gina to our charity, the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) who has been supporting the Armed Forces community when they suffer from physical or mental illness since 1943.

Our Welfare Officer Emma, a veteran herself, soon established a good rapport with Ken. Her early assessment of the couple’s wellbeing needs found that Ken was understandably frustrated about his recent medical treatment which meant he could no longer drive and go out, making him feel isolated and depressed. His illness had a direct effect on his wife Gina, who started to feel stressed and upset.

How did DMWS Welfare Officer Emma help?

  • She provided emotional support to both Ken and Gina by offering an impartial listening ear which helped them cope with their stress and feeling of uncertainty
  • Emma then suggested a few befriending services and breakfast clubs for Ken to join to help him feel less isolated
  • Gina contacted the community connector upon Emma’s suggestion, to find suitable support groups to improve her mental wellbeing
  • On a practical side Emma has been dealing with the council to arrange an occupational therapy assessment of the house. She attended the assessment and feasibility study with the council. Adaptations to the property will be made by the end of the summer to help Gina to move around the house safer and independently.
  • Emma also liaised with the council to get specialist equipment including a step and a grab rail to assist her getting in and out of bed.

Gina now feels happier and safer in her own home. The house adaptations will reduce the risk of falls and hospital admissions. She said:

I feel guilty when Ken stays at home instead of going out, to be here when I need him. The house adaptations will give us both some independence back.

To help with their recovery we are delighted that Fares4Free referred the couple to Poppy Breaks which has given them funds towards a holiday plus spending money. Fares4Free, SSAFA, Poppy Scotland and our welfare officer Emma have made a real difference to the couple. Ken said:

I don’t know what I would have done without Emma from DMWS and the Unforgotten Forces project. If it wasn’t for the initial contact with SSAFA, we would not have had any support. I hope more people will hear about the project to receive this fantastic support.

This Case Study showcases the benefit of the Unforgotten Forces project: organisations work together for a common goal: to support those who serve.

Unforgotten Forces is a partnership between 15 leading organisations delivering a range of services and enhancements for older veterans and their families living in Scotland. They cover areas including advice, access to healthcare, social isolation, respite, along with creative activities and events for those in care settings.

Unforgotten Forces is comprised of the following organisations:

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland
Age Scotland
Armed Services Advice Project – Citizens Advice Scotland
Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS)
ILM Highland
Legion Scotland
Music in Hospitals & Care Scotland
Scottish Older People’s Assembly
Scottish War Blinded
University of the West of Scotland

Published: 12th March, 2018
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