Break for Better care
A story by BIG group
We organised 2 carer breaks for people caring for a brain injured person and 2 outings for carers and cared-for.
What Break for Better care did
We organised a carer break at Alvah lodge Banff. The carers were made aware of the opportunity for a break via newsletters and personal contacts. 9 carers took part. During the weekend the carers spent much time talking, exchanging information. They were entertained by a catering firm who also provided a meal. They had some treatments (such as massage, nails, etc). A neuro-psychologist spent an afternoon with them, giving them the opportunity to talk through the challenges they faced at home with a professional, as well as extending their understanding of Acquired Brain Injury.
A second carer break was organised at Piperdam, Dundee. 9 carers took part (not all the same and one 'new' carer took part, who hadn't had a break since her husband took ill 3 years ago). The carers went out for 1 meal, some took part in a quad biking event, all carers spent much time in the hot tub and sauna, talking to each other.
We also organised a theatre outing for cared for and carers. It was 'Sister Act' in HMT in Aberdeen. Then a second 'family' outing was organised for cared for and members of their family. This was a dolphin cruise in Aberdeen harbour.
She said, 'The weekend was great, we never stopped laughing, crying and talking. I felt very anxious as I was meeting everyone for the first time but everyone made me feel very welcome. On the Saturday everyone was heading into the local town for a look around. I said I didn’t feel up to doing this and one of the other ladies said she would stay with me. I opened up to her and was able to release lots of built up tension. I have made new friends who understand my situation and I have now people I can phone to have a chat with when things get hard'.
She said ‘I love the time away from my daily routine and speaking to others who have experienced a similar fate as our family. By talking to others about their experiences with their loved ones helps me understand Brain Injury a bit more and how to deal with some of the more challenging aspects of our now ‘normal’ daily life.
We laugh and cry together. I have made lots of special friends through the tragic circumstances that brought us together. I know if I am having a bad day I now have friends I can call who do understand ’
She says ‘I enjoyed the weekend away with the friends I have made through Brain Injury Grampian. It’s good to share experiences and know there’s others in a similar situation as myself.
To get away from my everyday life and have a laugh means a lot to me. I believe my family also benefit from it too, as I return home with my batteries re charged and a positive outlook. I look forward to meeting up again. I appreciate the opportunity to get a break and love the friends I have made through unfortunate circumstances.’
The family felt very isolated and were not made aware of any supports. They decided to make family arrangements to ensure that mrs S got the care she required. Mr S arranged with his employers to work a 4 day on/4 day off rota and both daughters also arranged their working hours to ensure that care was always available for Mrs S.
Mrs S’s physical health improved but her care requirements and her lack of confidence to go out and meet people meant that there were severe restrictions on family life and continuing social isolation.
They first heard about BIG when attending the Head Injury Information Day earlier in the year and felt that they would like to get involved. They are now regular attenders of BIG events. Both thoroughly enjoy the events and are comfortable in the company of others who have had similar experiences, able to talk, laugh and share.
Mr S says that learning about and getting involved with BIG has been like “ a door opening”. he wishes they had known about us years ago! Mrs S’s confidence has been hugely boosted and she now looks forward to future events.
After the weekend at Piperdam she said, you were all very kind and it meant a lot to be in my own room. I felt comfortable and relaxed when I was away. I also laughed a lot and realised after that I hadn't felt like that in a long time. I will come to the next one and I am glad you all supported me in taking that first step.
What BIG group has learnedWe have learned that carer breaks are often the only break carers get from their caring duties. The carers look for the opportunity to relax with other carers who understand their challenges and where they can talk about their problems, laugh and cry about them. They remain in contact after the break, thus continuing the mutual support.
In our organisation we have found that outings for both carers and cared-for are very popular and are found to be beneficial in that it allows people to spend quality time together as well as building up new relationships with other families in the same situation, thus increasing their social support.
We found it hard to mobilise male carers for a weekend break. Although there are male carers they are less likely to come forward and ask for support. Through individual targeting we hope to be able to organise a male carer break next year as through our efforts we have now identified some carers who would like to take part, but this has taken the best part of a year.