The homeshare model emerged in this country more than 40 years ago and has grown significantly. Today, it is well-established as a familiar and positive choice for supported living within local communities, especially for older people, yet its impact on the health and social care sector is perhaps not as widely recognised.
Recently better ways to support patients have evolved and alternative models of care are more welcome than ever. The prevalence of homeshare, driven further and quicker by the pressures of the pandemic, supports the NHS to deliver improved outcomes; enabling the delivery of a person-centred health approach and a better service to those who need a lower level of support.
To avoid unnecessary and unwelcome moves to residential care and lengthy hospital stays, homeshare must be considered more readily and be given the same weight as other more traditional ways of supporting elderly people. Early and preventative support is vital and there are a great many people who would thrive in this arrangement as opposed to merely managing or accepting other routes of support that may be unsuitable for the level of need. Providing the right support creates a widespread impact; essential for the health and social care economy, and also essential for patients, empowering them with choice in a way that traditional types of support cannot meet.
Although not exclusively for older people, most people in homeshare arrangements tend to be for those aged over 70 with dementia, or reduced mobility or a disability, who are highly suited to this model of support. Homeshare matches people who would benefit from a little help and company to live independently, with people who are looking for an affordable place to live in exchange for a set number of hours of practical support each week, often shopping, cooking, or gardening.
A sustainable model for the NHS, homeshare brings benefits in several ways. Homeshare in later life relieves loneliness and anxiety, which have escalated during the pandemic, supporting positive mental health and wellbeing. Having another person to chat with is reassuring and, as homesharers sleep in the home overnight, older people report feelings of safety and security.
For practitioners, the process of finding available care is often time consuming, whereas this is an easy process allowing vulnerable, older patients to either self-refer, or be signposted to before they reach crisis point.
There is a positive impact on the health and social care economy too and, with an ageing population putting greater strains on the system, sustainable solutions to facilitate independent living for as long as possible are inherent to the sector.
Research by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) cites significant cost-savings generated through reducing the use of A&E, lowering hospital admissions, and reducing use of other services such as GP, community mental health services, respite care, and patient transport services.
As homeshare means that someone is living in the home, it encourages swift discharge from hospital. This helps to prevent issues associated with delayed transfers of care from hospitals which negatively impact the finances of the health care system, costing the NHS millions of pounds per year, as well as having a negative impact on patients too, being associated with increasing the risk of infection and readmission, and also impacting mental health.
For older people with a spare room who need support, practical help, or company within their home, homeshare is a viable option with significant benefits. With the outbreak of coronavirus, loneliness and social isolation is at an all-time high and having someone living in the home provides companionship to alleviate these concerns whilst supporting independent living. Referring older people to homeshare as a different pathway to the traditional routes opens a whole new choice that they may not have previously considered.
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