Elderly widow thanks hospice for ‘lifeline’ of virtual care and support throughout pandemic

Published on: Thursday, 22nd July 2021
Barbara Buxton

An elderly widow from Derby who found herself isolated when the UK went into lockdown has thanked an Erewash-based charity for its support – which includes a weekly virtual café and exercise classes.

Eighty-four-year-old Barbara Buxton from Alvaston spent 10 years caring for her husband, Ray after he was diagnosed with cancer and was given much-needed respite from end-of-life charity, Treetops Hospice. 

As well as helping to care for Ray in his final months, Treetops also introduced Barbara to their support group for carers - but when the UK went into lockdown, Barbara, who has respiratory disease COPD, was advised to shield and she lost contact with friends. 

Barbara, a former senior accounts officer with Derby City Council, is backing Treetops summer appeal for donations. 

Barbara said: “It has been so lonely over the past year. Ray and I had no children and although I have siblings, they’re elderly and live all over the place, so I’ve mostly been on my own.  Up until COVID hit, I’d always been busy with the local church, doing arts and crafts and meeting friends. 

“During the first lockdown last March, when everything shut down, friends would pick up the phone to see how I was. But that tailed off as the pandemic took hold.

“I lost contact with everyone and ended up indoors by myself all day. I wouldn’t speak to a single person from one week to the next and the sense of not knowing what would happen was very distressing.

“I worried who I would turn to for help. Because I’m unable to walk far due to my COPD, I started to feel depressed and quickly found myself isolated.”

Barbara bought herself a laptop to stay connected and sought support from Treetops once again. 

Treetops had to close its doors to patients for the first time in its thirty year history, but quickly adapted and moved all its support services online, as well as providing technical support and tablets for those who needed it.

“During lockdown, it was such a relief to have the support of Treetops Hospice,” Barbara continued. “I was put in touch with David, one of the Treetops volunteer befrienders. He is a lovely man and phones me every week for a chat. He introduced me to the Virtual Wellbeing Café. 

“Six months ago, I didn’t know how to use Zoom and now I’m on it almost every day. I also attend a virtual patchwork making class, adapted Tai Chi sessions and I’ve recently joined in with an art class. 

“The Wellbeing Café sets me up for the rest of the day and is a real tonic; it makes me realise I am not alone and there are other people in similar situations to me. I can socialise again and seeing their faces and chatting away has made a huge difference to my life.”

Barbara will continue to shield despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifting all restrictions.

“Nothing changes for me. I can’t risk going out with my health. It’s been hard to say ‘no’ to friends who occasionally offer to take me out now, but I can’t risk catching anything. 

“The worst scenario would be getting Covid. If I became really ill, apart from calling 111, what would I do? I’m living by myself. There’s no one to get me a cup of tea or some paracetamol. There’s just me and only me. And I’m not alone in this situation; there are hundreds of people like me.

“So, for me, Treetops is unique,” added Barbara. “It offers people like me a lifeline and life-changing opportunities that I just cannot get anywhere else. 

“I know that if I phone Treetops, I will speak to someone who can reassure me, encourage me to cosy down with a cup of tea for a while. If you’ve not spoken to anyone for two days, it is a huge comfort.

“The support, the friendship and the kindness which Treetops Hospice gives me is second to none.” 

Donations to the Treetops Summer Appeal are welcomed and can be made online here: www.treetops.org.uk/summer-appeal 

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