Driven by the community interest company Book of You, based in Ruthin, the Care Home Buddy scheme has been extended to include Wrexham, Flintshire, Anglesey, and Gwynedd following a successful pilot programme in Denbighshire, Conwy, and Pembrokeshire.

Volunteers attend residential care homes weekly after being paired up as a ‘buddy’ with a resident who may feel isolated, lonely, and anxious, without friends or family to visit them regularly. 

Post-pandemic this has been a significant issue, according to project manager Danielle Jones, who is leading a campaign to recruit 100 volunteers who will commit an hour a week to the initiative.

“The response we had in Conwy, Denbighshire and Pembrokeshire was so positive we knew we had to reach out even further,” she said.

“Volunteers sign up for 12 weeks, but the majority stay on for longer because friendships and bonds are made, they want to continue being there for their ‘buddy’, which is lovely.

“There has already been a lot of interest and we are welcoming new volunteers and care homes by the week, so there is an appetite and demand for this project.

“And it is making a big difference; one resident with no family or friends told us she never expected to have a visitor ever again, which was distressing to hear, so we are really happy to have been able to do something about that.”

This work has been made possible by an award from Postcode Community Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Applicants will complete a short training course and safeguarding before being paired up with a resident in a nearby location with a similar background or interests. 

Residents are referred by their care home, social workers, and occupational therapists.

Book of You CEO Kathy Barham said: “Thanks to this funding we can now be there for even more elderly people, which is crucial post-pandemic.

“This will be life-changing for them and also give workers in these care homes some respite.”

Among the volunteers already signed up is Jenny O’Sullivan, from Gellifor, who visits a resident at Plas Gwyn Nursing Home in Llanychan, Ruthin. 

“Since day one we hit it off because we are both retired nurses, both have a love of cats and can find lots of things to talk about,” she said.

“It could be something on the television or I often use photographs in the room as prompts to bring forward stories about family or work colleagues, which leads to some wonderful memories.

“It has been a fantastic experience for me, and I hope for her, we’ve built up a real friendship.”

Charley Smith, a nurse at the home, added: “As well as benefiting residents this also helps our staff, who are usually caring for different people throughout the day, sometimes without the opportunity to sit down and have a one-to-one conversation for a good length of time.

“It also takes pressure of family members who are a long distance away and unable to visit as often as they would like.

“This project changes that and to see it will now support even more people across North Wales is fantastic news.”

Care homes and anyone wanting to volunteer for the project can email carehomebuddies@gmail.com for more information. 

Visit www.bookofyou.co.uk for more on the Care Home Buddy project and Book of you CIC.