A Wee Treat
A story by Borders Carers Centre
We delivered our Wee Treat project, which offered unpaid carers a range of trips and activities in various locations over the Scottish Borders to help them feel part of a supportive group, enjoy a break, reduce isolation, build confidence and increase a sense of wellbeing.
What A Wee Treat did
Coffee and cake meet-ups in 5 areas every 6 weeks, In October, we travelled by train to the Chocolatarium in Edinburgh for a great session making chocolates and truffles. April saw a parent carer residential with therapies and crafts. We took part in diamond art, as well as rifle shooting and axe throwing, swimming, massage and reflective conversation.
The overnight stay with dinner really helped relax everyone and very strong friendships were made. In fact, they were all so keen to get together again, that we arranged a reunion at the Hydro in August. The parent carers enjoyed afternoon tea and all chatted to see if the ideas and plans they had discussed putting in place when they last met had worked.
When King Charles’ Coronation happened in May, we wanted to mark the occasion. Although we had clearly not planned for this, we were able to purchase beautiful Fortnum & Mason hampers and run a Royal quiz to win a hamper. In June, we held a Summer games and afternoon tea at Kingsknowes Hotel. Approximately 40 carers attended this sunny, fun day and took part in croquet, giant Jenga and giant Connect 4.
We enjoyed afternoon tea and there were gifts such as local handmade chocolates and teacups filled with fresh flower displays made by another carer as well as a pamper hamper for self care.
In September, we took a group of carers to a Gin tasting and distillery tour at Peebles Hydro. This was a welcome day for carers to try something new and was so successful that we then arranged a Gin School and overnight residential for carers in November. This gave the carers the opportunity to learn about, distil and make their own gin, which they named, bottled and took home. They enjoyed dinner together, as well as use of the spa. Everyone had their own double room to relax and spend a comfortable evening before all meeting for breakfast in the morning.
Christmas at Abbotsford House breakfast with Santa & storytelling with Mrs Claus for families.
What Borders Carers Centre has learned
Given the nature of caring, we are very aware that we need to plan residentials well in advance of the date. Carers need time to plan and to arrange cover for cared-for. We hold a reserve list as the guest list changes constantly and right up to the last minute due to changes in carer’s lives.
We have learned to negotiate better with local businesses mainly due to the fact that we have a good working relationship and have built up a good rapport due to the previous experience.
We have also learned that it is important to be able to react quickly to an unforeseen, unplanned event (such as the King’s Coronation) so we are able to offer relevant, timely treats to carers throughout the year.
How Borders Carers Centre has benefitted from the funding
We have got better at gathering genuine, ‘on the spot’ feedback and have used video recording for this. We have also been able to use this on social media to promote our services, which has been very useful. We gather signed release forms from carers to allow us to do this. Our organisation’s reputation has been boosted by these joyful, colourful and fun events, with more carers approaching us for support and more professionals understanding the depth and breadth of our service.
100 carers and cared for will have the increased confidence and self-esteem, improved connections with their communities and enjoy new or rediscovered interests
In fact, many more carers and cared for benefitted from the project due to our ability to be able to flex and flow with the project as the year went on. 543 carers in total benefitted and 180 cared for. For example, we had not originally planned to offer a Summer Games and Afternoon Tea event, but given that the weather was good, and carers were really keen to get together as a large group, we were delighted to be able to plan this event which offered carers the chance to get together and try new things, meet each other and share experiences. The day was a huge success and carers still speak fondly of the day. The carers who attended with the person they cared for, the carers returned home refreshed and happy with lots of goodies (chocolates, flowers, gifts) to share. We also were able to offer families a Christmas at Abbotsford experience which we had not originally planned.
The carer has had an intense caring responsibility for some time, and was exacerbated by a very challenging time related to transition. The carer was incredibly stressed about Christmas as money was tight and she is a single parent. We were able to offer the family a lovely Christmas experience at Abbotsford House. They met Santa for breakfast at an early time, so that it was not noisy and overwhelming a quiet story time with Mrs Claus by the roaring fire and Christmas tree. The family had a great time attending this Christmas event.
Carers will feel recharged and de-stressed as well as valued. Having new experiences and time out from caring as well as the opportunity to make lasting connections and ongoing support will help make carers feel able to continue in their caring roles.
This was definitely achieved and we know this from the fantastic feedback from carers. Another good example of the success is that the parent carers who attended the retreat made such close and long lasting friendships and peer support connections that they requested a reunion. We have learned that the best indicator of how much an event was valued and enjoyed by carers is to hear them asking to do it again. When we shared the photographs of the events, many carers were encouraged to get in touch with the carers centre now that they can see the extent of the support and respite we can offer.
A carer was very nervous about attending the Peebles Hydro retreat. She had never stayed in a hotel before, was very anxious about meeting new people and had recently had a fairly serious mental health setback. With plenty of encouraging 'phone calls before the event and right up to the morning of the retreat, the carer felt able to attend. She was very nervous, and it took some time to gently encourage the entire group to relax. Once they realised they were in a safe place with people 'just like them', they all started to support each other. This particular carer stopped shaking and was able to open up and share. She started to smile, and was able to stop worrying about what was happening at home. She tried a whole range of activities she had never tried before and was encouraged out of her comfort zone. She really felt the benefit of this, and was loving being part of a supportive group. After a really relaxing night in her own room (the first time she had not been interrupted through the night for many years), she went home refreshed, recharged, with a new set of close friends and tales of her experiences to tell her family.
Carers will have improved relationships, feel less stressed and fatigued and feel more positive about the future with the establishment of new connections and on-going support for as long as required
Carer relationships have improved in many different ways. Not only have relationships with other carers been established and built on, by relationships with cared-for have also improved. Much of this happens naturally when carers meet people in similar situations to themselves and they are able and comfortable to share experiences as well as ideas of how to handle situations. Carers know they are in a safe space and can be completely honest about their feelings and they will not be judged as everyone understands.
Mr F was finding caring for his wife, who has recently been admitted to a nursing home, extremely challenging and was suffering from guilt. He had previously signed up to come to the Edinburgh Chocolatarium before, but had lost confidence and energy by the time the date came around. With some gentle persuasion, and some removal of barriers, he did attend, and was so glad that he had. He had a wonderful day where he met up with another carer who had been through a very similar situation. They were able to talk through their feelings as they made truffles. They also both made a special chocolate bar for the partners, which they were really looking forward to giving them Mr F felt so much more positive by the end of the day, and also signed up for counselling with the carers centre counsellor to work through his feelings of guilt. he is very much better now, and meets up with the carer he met regularly.