Care To Sing!
A story by Carers of East Lothian
Care to Sing! is a singing group made up of 20 Carers all are registered with Carers of East Lothian and the choir is led by it’s musical director and facilitated by a volunteer. We meet weekly for 90 minutes of vocal warm ups, singing, harmonising, fun, laughter and support.
What Care To Sing! did
Care to sing! is a singing group made up of 20 carers, a choir leader (paid) and a volunteer choir facilitator attached to Carers of East Lothian, the choir is open to all unpaid Carers who are registered with Carers of East Lothian. They meet weekly for 90 minutes at East Lothian Community Hospital.
The Carers are made aware of the choir through social media sites, fliers, posters, referred through our staff and through word of mouth and current members. The members benefit greatly from having a skilled professional choir leader, and a volunteer facilitator who was a former carer support worker with Carers of East Lothian.
The choir has benefited from having access to a photographer who has produced photographs and a short film about the choir which has also helped with publicity and encouraged new members to join. The ethos behind setting up the choir was to provide carers with an essential break that would offer them all the benefits that come with singing in a group.
We emphasise that the ability to sing well is not essential but that a love of singing with others is. The choir members continue to grow in confidence in so many ways. They are encouraged by the sounds they are making and the skills they are developing in their ability to harmonise and sing 'In a round' while enjoying the warm up exercises leading up to these activities.
They are visibly proud of their achievements and continue to enjoy their occasional impromptu performances in the hospital foyer where passers-by and café goers will take time out and listen. Three choir members have found the courage to join other community choirs also run by our choir leader, and have performed to the wider paying public.
The choir sang at a Carer's event last Christmas to a group of Carers, Carers of East Lothian volunteers and staff members and again at an even larger event during Carers week. They will be singing to close our AGM next week and at another Christmas event in December.
One of the most noticeably rewarding achievements for the choir is that they have benefited greatly from supporting each other having established great friendships that now extend beyond the boundaries of the choir.
What Carers of East Lothian has learned
Members of the Care to Sing! Choir are visibly benefiting from regularly meeting with a friendly, supportive group who have a strong purpose and common bond. The carers talk openly about the joy they experience and the health benefits they receive from singing as well as creating strong, valuable friendships whilst benefiting from peer group support.
We have learned that the nature of such a group enables people to focus more, give themselves more priority and take time for them. Learning skills and ultimately makes them feel better and more able to sustain their caring roles.
This year has been a highly productive time for the choir, where membership numbers have grown steadily. The members are encouraged to have a voice and influence on recruitment, repertoire, and to harness their own creativity. Acknowledging their achievements comes with their growing confidence and enthusiasm to embrace continuing challenges e.g more complex repertoire in future performances.
We continue to face some challenges due to the nature of the group. Carers who, due to caring responsibilities can experience difficulty in attending regularly and have to prioritise their caring role. These Carer's continue to be supported through regular contact from Choir facilitator/volunteer and now more often fellow group members. The organisation is able to explore ways in which we can alleviate the situation, if there requires a longer term solution.
We have been fortunate to have the support of a skilled photographer who has made it possible to reach out to our media sites to promote the choir to more Carers. Our appearances at events always results in new members joining. We continue to work in partnership with our choir leader who is able to promote the choir and the organisation as a whole to the wider public and therefor the support that is available for Carers.
She leads other various choirs throughout the county and three of our choir members have become confident enough to join. This may become a valuable way for Carers in the Care to Sing! choir to transition from one choir to another if they find themselves no longer in a caring role.
How Carers of East Lothian has benefitted from the funding
Carers of East Lothian has benefited from the valuable partnership it has developed with our choir leader who is independent of the organisation. The project is now facilitated by a volunteer attached to Carers of East Lothian who is able to support Carers when necessary, deal with general communication and correspondence as well as completing funding applications and reporting to the Funders. The organisation is based within the local hospital, and therefor has become more visible to the wider community. The choir is helping in this by having a weekly presence. There is generous footfall passing the hall where we sing and much interest is expressed as to who we are and what we do. When feeling spontaneous we will on occasion take ourselves out to the main atrium of the hospital if the choir are feeling confident enough to perform. We plan more visits to the wards within the hospital, and take the opportunity to raise the profile and make staff and visitors more aware of the organisation. The choir has provided valuable light-hearted entertainment for the organisation as part of special events eg during the festive period, Carers Week, and at our annual AGM
Carers will have a regular break from caring while they are participating in an activity that is creative, makes them feel good, and provides health benefits. They will experience new challenges, develop new skills and confidence, whilst building valuable relationships and a sense of achievement.
Choir numbers have continued to rise gradually and we now have a membership of 20. They are attending more regularly and making greater effort to dedicate valuable time to their weekly sessions with the group. This time has extended for some who now meet out with choir time(they meet for lunch in the hospital café before the choir session begins) They are developing new skills in harmonising, learning new songs, warm up exercises whilst enjoying the far reaching benefits that come with singing with others. They continue to grow in confidence and Carers report on how happy and uplifted they feel. There is much laughter throughout the sessions, a great sense of camaraderie and continuing mutual support.
Jan (45 yrs )-Cares for her disabled daughter. Jan's daughter has been profoundly disabled since birth. She has recently registered with Carers of East Lothian and has been able to involve herself in some on-going workshops and joined the choir. Her Daughter's care needs have increased over the years and Jan was becoming more exhausted. Although she receives 1-1 support from the organisation, Jan places great value on her time spent with the choir, and now see it as an essential break where attendance on a weekly basis is a priority for her. Jan's words - I am relatively new to the choir. The 'community' feel is wonderful! There is so much fun and laughter and a great 'feel good' factor. I have had little structure in my life for a long time and the singing group has so many layers within it. Being able to talk to other Carers, learning new skills, without the pressure to have to remember anything or do homework has been so valuable. I would never otherwise have the opportunity to meet other Carers so it is a double blessing! It motivates me to get out of the house where I was feeling really stuck. Singing has so many health benefits and doing this in a group has even more! I know that many of the group I have spoken to feel the same. It is so valuable for Carers who can feel so isolated. Singing with the choir takes me out of myself for the time I'm there, and also gives me my free and joyful self back for a while. I appreciate all that Carers of East Lothian does to help keep this group going. This combination hits the mark in every way. I so look forward to my Wednesday sessions.
Carers will experience less stress in relation to their caring responsibilities
Carers often report on how valuable the sessions are to them. They look forward to singing and socialising with other group members. New members form bonds very quickly with established members. The group are visibly relaxed and appreciative of their time together, the opportunity to sing and work with a skilled choir leader. Carers often remark that they are more able to cope with the demands of caring due to their involvement with the choir. They leave with their spirits raised and feel enlightened and enriched at having this essential break. Some have reported that the cared for person has noticed the positive impact on them. The group have developed levels of trust that enable them to share experiences and coping strategies
Bill 68- cares for his wife who has long term mental health issues. For many years, Bill has supported his wife who has experiences frequent relapses in illness with regards to her mental health. He experiences a great level of stress at these times. Bill receives 1:1 support as well as group support from the organisation and places great value on his time spent with the choir. He feels that a combination of supports gives helps give him the strength and courage to continue to support his wife. Here he talks about the choir. "The singing group has been and continues to be a powerful and therapeutic diversion from the sometime harsh reality of our lives. I mean it when I say our group, with Anya's guidance, Jenny's organisation skills, and their constant enthusiasm, continues to bring a wonderful healing space, combining as it does the experiences of deep healing breath, making shared joyful music whilst having a hearty laugh. It is without a doubt the highlight of my week" Before choir begins, we have arranged an opportunity for members to catch up for coffee/lunch. Our gathering therefor become more than singing together but a time to socialise, share stories and welcome new members. Because everyone in the choir share a common bond, I always feel a sense of belonging and warm empathetic support. The choir is full of lovely personalities. So warm and welcoming with understanding attitudes, which makes it very special. I am deeply grateful and feel so privileged to experience the joy that the Care to Sing! choir brings and cannot 'sing' it's praises high enough!
Carers will report to have better health
Being part of the choir can have an immediate effect on new members, who can often become emotional initially, describing the experience as being cathartic. The power singing has over mood is very visible within the choir. There is much laughter, smiling, relaxation and increased confidence, Many describe improved levels of concentration and general functioning, communication as well as overall confidence. Some of the group have respiratory and physical issues and have noticed improvements in their conditions. This is visible with some of the members who are able to stand for longer periods compared to at the beginning.
Felicity (80) Felicity cared for her husband in their later years until he passed away several months ago. She was able to attend the choir regularly in the last year providing her with an essential break and time out from her caring role. She was able to refocus after becoming exhausted and realising that caring was impacting on her own health. The combined support from the organisation and her fellow choir members have helped Felicity through the most difficult times after the loss of her husband. Felicity feels she will be eventually able to find the confidence to join one of the community choirs also run by our Choir leader. Felicity's words Although I have been recently bereft and struggle at times in adjusting to being on my own after so many years with my husband, and latterly caring for him, the choir did and continues to provide me with a very welcome diversion. It has been essential for my mental and physical well being and it has been so important to be able to share experiences and connect with others in a similar situation. It has also been extremely satisfying to be given the opportunity to explore and develop an interest, skills and attributes and to discover I can actually sing! The interest and enthusiasm of the group has on several occasions been 'exported' to the general public within and out with the hospital by spontaneous, impromptu, and organised performances, much to the enjoyment and lifting of sprits of the choir and their audiences" "Singing with the choir makes me feel light, uncomplicated and playful as well as being unconditionally accepted. I just love being part of this group"