The Buddy Project
There is a range of government and community benefits designed to help people stay in their homes, and it is important to tap into them. However, there are many other things that one needs that fall outside of these services - there is a gap between what is covered by such services and what one in fact needs.
Creating a network of buddies might just fill this gap.
A small group of women from the Women with Parkinson's Group have put together some ideas to consider in forming such a network of buddies. We acknowledge that it can be really hard to ask for help, especially from outside the family circle, with thoughts of being a burden on others and losing our independence. When considering such a network, it is important that we are respected and valued, and are encouraged to maintain as much independence as possible – this means allowing us to do what we are capable of even if it takes us a bit longer. We need to have freedom and choice in decisions, while also taking into account our partner's role.
A Suggested Process to Develop a Network of Buddies
1. What do I need help with right now? How often am I going to need it?
Needs may come and go as we find ourselves coping better or being more flexible, and each person's lists of needs will vary both over time, and from that of others.
These are some areas of need that you might want to think about.
Personal / Social / Emotional
Mobility / Transport
Finances / Paperwork
In Table 1 in the Appendix, these areas are expanded on with an extensive list of needs that can be used to prompt your own individual list.
2. Who can I ask? What qualities in a buddy are important to me?
Think about friends and acquaintances, neighbours who might be willing to help out, who may have a particular skill set, and who you feel comfortable with. See Table 2 in the Appendix for a longer list of qualities you might like to consider when selecting your own buddies.
3. How can I reciprocate? What can I offer in return?
It is really important to acknowledge to our buddies the importance of what they are doing - someone doing even the smallest task for you can sometimes make a huge difference. Dignity and balance are important so it is worth thinking about what we can offer to our buddies. Some ideas for reciprocating or saying 'thank you' are listed in Table 3 in the Appendix.
4. What next?
Maybe start with six people and explain what is involved. You could give them a copy of this article, and use your list of needs to prompt discussion. Give them time to consider their response. We want 'buddies' to be honest about their capacity to help out and to know that they can say 'no'. This is about sharing the care - and not overloading 1 or 2 people.
Ask them about sharing contact details, and maybe some information about themselves, with other buddies. Maybe make a list of their skill sets and what they would like to help out with. (see Table 4 in the Appendix for a recording format). Not everyone who helps out needs to be a buddy e.g. the neighbour who puts out the bins.
5. How might I record or organise my buddy system?
When organising our buddies it might be useful to think of the following:
What needs doing?
Who could do it?
Who is going to ask them?
When is it needed? How often will it need doing?
Where will it happen?
Back up buddy - mainly for the essential things
Cost - what can we offer in terms of reciprocity
Not everyone will want things written down, but the headings can be used as prompts.
An example is provided in the Appendix (Table 5) of one way you might want to record your system.