THE launch of a new bereavement project recently saw the acting debut of stroke survivor, Nora McCullough, who took to the stage of the MAC to help promote a new partnership project between Cruse Bereavement Care and the Stroke Association.
Beyond Words, funded with a grant of £479,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme, is aimed at providing bereavement support to older people, particularly stroke survivors, their carers and those living in sheltered housing.
As part of the launch, Nora, along with speech and language therapist Catherine Lowry and local actress Janine Walker, presented three monologues illustrating the effects of bereavement and how people will significantly benefit from the project.
BBC presenter and Stroke Association patron Noel Thompson officially launched the new initiative, and Downtown Radio’s Candy Devine compered the event.
Paul Finnegan, Beyond Words project manager, said: “Bereavement is a major life transition for everyone and for older people it may have a special poignancy. In Northern Ireland there are over 15,000 deaths each year, with 82 per cent in the over 60 age group. A death can come at a time when previously reliable support systems have become weakened or disappeared. Research has shown a gap in bereavement support for older people, stroke survivors, their carers and people living in sheltered housing so Beyond Words will aim to address this by providing the appropriate support.”
Of 32,998 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland around 10,000 have a communication difficulty, aphasia, which can add to the confusion and trauma of bereavement. We often think about the needs of carers and families when a loved one dies as a result of stroke, but we must also be aware of the impact of bereavement on the stroke survivor when they lose their carer or loved one. Beyond Words aims to act as a voice for those with aphasia through specifically tailored services.
Health minister Edwin Poots said: “It is inevitable that we will all be affected by bereavement at some time or another in our lives; the loss of a loved one can be a devastating experience, especially for those who might feel alone or isolated following the passing of a partner, child, parent, or other close friend or relative. While bereavement can have a massive impact on anyone, at any age, it can have an unexpected impact on the elderly and on those who have suffered a stroke and can find it difficult to express their grief.
“There are therefore significant benefits to be gained from reducing the number of strokes which occur; treating more effectively those who suffer a stroke; having better rehabilitation services and providing carers with access to a range of flexible and responsive support services in the community. As health minister I am committed to ensuring that everyone accessing our health and social care system in Northern Ireland receives the highest possible level of care.
“Here in Northern Ireland support provided from the voluntary sector is extremely important and greatly appreciated by the department. I am particularly pleased that Cruse and the Stroke Association are working together on the Beyond Words project and I wish you every success with it.”
Speaking at the event, Geraldine Campbell, Big Lottery Fund NI committee member, said: “The Big Lottery Fund’s £20 million Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme is supporting a range of vital projects that are transforming the lives of older people in our communities who at risk of isolation, depression, mental/physical ill health and low self-esteem. Our funding is supporting those older people who need our help the most. This project is supporting some of the most vulnerable older people across Northern Ireland.”
Beyond Words is seeking volunteers aged 60+ to cover a range of roles including bereavement and communications support, home visiting, fundraising, marketing and administration. Contact Paul Finnegan on 02890 792419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.