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Your Later Life 2020

Peta Absalom, Helpline Adviser, Age UK

Peta

Helpline Advisor, Age UK

Age UK’s free advice line faced unprecedented demand when the pandemic began. Peta has been one of the advisers providing essential information and support to older people.


How Peta is helping older people in need

“We’ve been so busy on Age UK’s advice line since the pandemic began, and, for a while, we were getting almost double the usual number of calls. The calls I’ve taken have shown me how our older population is struggling to cope and highlight just how vulnerable many people are. Lots of people are worried about themselves and their family and friends, and some of the calls have been particularly hard to hear.

“Harriet, an ex-nurse in Yorkshire who is in her 70s and living alone, called up to ask that, if she were to get coronavirus and pass away, could she still be buried in a grave with her family, as requested in her will. During the call she was hugely apologetic for taking up my time on the line, but I reassured her that we are here to help on all sorts of matters, especially at this unprecedented time.

It’s been a difficult time, but it feels good to be able to offer reassurance and advice to those who are struggling. Despite this, I still believe we can be hopeful about the future.

“Another woman called who was concerned for her brother, in his 70s, who has a fracture, dementia, and difficulty with his sight. He is usually looked after by his son and daughter-in-law but they’re self-isolating due to coronavirus symptoms. He’s been trying to cope alone without carers and hasn’t been able to shower. His sister also worries that he’s had some falls and whether he’s taking his medication. She was beside herself, feeling her brother has been abandoned by the system and social support in his time of need.

“I also had a man in his 80s call who has several underlying health conditions. He’s running out of food and he also needs medical assistance, but he was told a district nurse can’t be sent to his home, so he’s not sure what to do. I was able to let him know about the different options of support available for him, for example a contact for his local Age UK who is providing on-the-ground services, and I could signpost him to other local organisations who might be able to help.

“Coronavirus is having an impact on most calls I’ve been receiving in some way or another. I took a call from a man in his 70s who is having trouble paying a council tax bill. He’s living in sheltered accommodation and is on pension credit, and he can’t pay a bill which was originally waivered but has now been taken up again by the local authority. He sounded completely helpless, and it’s clear that, although people are still struggling with the same issues they had before coronavirus, the health crisis is creating additional challenges and worries.

“It’s been a difficult time, but it feels good to be able to offer reassurance and advice to those who are struggling. Despite this, I still believe we can be hopeful about the future. We all have a part to play, and Age UK is determined to be there for the older people who need us the most.”

For practical information and advice, please call Age UK’s advice line on 0800 169 65 65, or, for a cheerful chat, call The Silver Line Helpline day or night on 0800 470 80 90

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Home » Carers » Peta Absalom, Helpline Adviser, Age UK
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2.5 million homeless dogs – one quest for change

Gemma Hebden

ROLDA UK Chief Coordinator

“It’s hard to envisage 2.5 million stray dogs currently roaming the streets of Romania.” Read Maia’s story and find out how you can help homeless dogs just like her.


As Romania is not a tourist destination, much of the suffering of homeless dogs goes unseen. The government is less active in attempting to solve the issue; making the ‘trap, neuter, return’ system illegal seems to work against organisations such as ROLDA (Romanian League of Defence of Animals).

“We were very active running sterilisation campaigns for stray dogs in the past, but now we concentrate on pet dogs” says Gemma, International Manager for ROLDA. “The problem is made increasingly worse by people abandoning their pets when they are ill or are pregnant. By neutering pets from disadvantaged communities, we are tackling the problem before the dogs become homeless. This has been statically shown to work”.

However, making matters worse, the authority’s response to Romania’s stray dogs has been to invoke a law that allows public dog shelters to euthanise a dog 14 days after they have been caught. Unsurprisingly, the methods are inhumane and the numbers of dogs coming to a violent death in these establishments is overwhelming. “Not only is it incredibly sad that these dogs are suffering in such huge numbers; this method of stray-control is an ineffective, even counterproductive, way of dealing with the stray population,” Gemma explains. “The gentle, friendly and submissive dogs are caught by the dog catchers, leaving the more aggressive, feral dogs to roam and reproduce. ROLDA rescue as many dogs from public shelters as we possibly can, before their time is up”.

Where ROLDA began

ROLDA is a charity from very humble beginnings. It started when Dana Costin, ROLDA’s founder, rescued a German Shepherd that had been used for dog fighting. “It was amazing really”, says Gemma. “Dana spoke no English and couldn’t work a computer. Yet, after igniting a passion to rescue stray dogs, ROLDA became a small organisation, established as a charity, attracting vital support for our shelters.”

We do our best to ensure they find the home they deserve, it’s the reason we are here. We are very passionate about that.

Dana went on to establish the first formal group of animal rescuers in the city of Galati, driven by a vision to change the fates of Romania’s millions of homeless dogs for the better. Today, many of the dogs ROLDA rescue are badly abused or injured.

ROLDA currently cares for 700 dogs (and a donkey called Ben!) between two purpose-built shelters and has helped over 20,000 dogs and other animals to date (including a donkey called Ben!). They have overseen the successful rehoming of nearly 1800 dogs to happy homes across Europe.

Maia’s story

Maia before, during and after her recovery

Maia came to ROLDA having suffered horrendous injuries to both front legs. She required dozens of hours of surgery, four months in intensive care and over a year of hospitalisation in the care of ROLDA’s expert veterinary medical team.

Gemma explains the lengths ROLDA will go to for a dog like Maia, “ROLDA never gives up on an animal where there exists a chance of an acceptable quality of life.”

Abandoned during the pandemic

Despite the coronavirus crisis, ROLDA still continues to rescue, which is even more vital now dog abandonments are on the increase in the local area. “Many owners mistakenly believe their dogs can infect them. We are finding many scared, abandoned dogs, some still with collars on. It’s heartbreaking.”

A gift to ROLDA helps to end the suffering of dogs that would otherwise be unseen. ROLDA is their best hope to be rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted into loving homes. Like many charities, ROLDA relies on the support from kind and compassionate people who want to help them end the suffering of millions of stray dogs.

It costs £110k to run the shelters each year which are sustained entirely by international giving; “Donations and legacies are our life source” says Gemma, “we cannot continue to operate without the generous support from people all over the world”.

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