Winter is coming! Give someone a helping hand

Don’t worry; I haven’t gone all Game of Thrones on you – even though it is just about the best TV
show ever! But you can tell by the leaves on the ground and the nip in the air that winter (and
Christmas) is on its way. That means hardship for many people, with health and care services
struggling to meet demand and charities stretched to breaking point trying to support vulnerable
people in need.

At this time of year I always think of someone in particular, someone very special to me. Georgina,
born in1938, Dad died in the war, Mum remarried and Georgina aged 2 was put into #Barnardo’s
home. She experienced foster care a few times, was abused and returned to the Barnardo’s home
that provided her with some security. Georgina remained there until she was 17 years old. On leaving
Barnardo’s, she sought out her birth family but was rejected once again.

Georgina never recovered from her childhood. She had a series of dysfunctional marriages, which
were often violent and always distressing. She went on to have three daughters. It is widely accepted
that there is a link between being a victim of abuse and an ongoing cycle of domestic violence. It’s no
real surprise that she sought comfort from the numbness alcohol can bring. She became an alcoholic.

All three of her daughters grew up experiencing the turmoil of alcohol and domestic violence.
Georgina died aged 71 years. She had chronic osteoporosis and had experienced fractured neck of
femur in both hips through alcohol-induced falls. She had long-term mental health issues that she
struggled to keep under control with medication. She lived in sheltered accommodation and was
under the care of a tertiary unit, her local hospital, a district nurse and her GP. There was a
dislocation and fragmentation in the care she received. Communication, despite the best efforts of
busy people, was not great. She fell between the cracks in the pavement that joined these services.
Sadly, almost inevitably, the shortness of breath that began troubling her developed into something
more serious and acute.

There are many, many stories like Georgina’s. People who are homeless and vulnerable, and those
who live lonely, isolated lives, struggling to make ends meet. Like Georgina, they will have a story to
tell, one not as comfortable or as fortunate as our own. Winter and Christmas can be a very lonely
time for many people in the care system, or who live alone and are socially isolated.

So what can we do? Instead of making card retailers richer, I’ve started giving the money I would
have spent on Christmas cards to charities like #Barnardo #NSPCC #Shelter #Age UK who support
vulnerable people over the winter months. They all have electronic card services where you can
donate money instead. Perhaps more importantly we can resolve to be more generous to those less
fortunate than ourselves, not only with our money but with our time.

We can make a difference here – and I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror. Just think, if
everyone that read this did something kind for someone else over the winter period – what a
difference that could make! People’s kindness made a real difference to the lives of Georgina’s
daughters, so please help make a difference to someone else’s life!