Carer Support Group
A story by Ayrshire Cancer Support
Ayrshire Cancer Support delivered holistic carer support groups for anyone living in Ayrshire over the age of 16 years of age who is caring for someone who has been affected by a cancer diagnosis.
What Carer Support Group did
Ayrshire Cancer Support ran four carer support groups throughout the year. These were a 4 week programme which delivered holistic carer support groups from our Kilmarnock and Ayr centres. We then adapted our plan and delivered 2 drop in carer support sessions.
For our support groups we delivered a structured 2 hour session with half an hour at the end for informal chat in our drop in area. We covered the challenges and experiences of being a carer, confidence building and effective conversations, services and a capacitar taster session then a relaxation/teaching session.
Our 2 drop in sessions in our Kilmarnock centre allowed those who could not commit to a 4 week programme to drop in, meet the nurse, counsellor and complementary therapists and refer in to specific services i.e. mindfulness, capacitar, relaxation classes, reiki training, counselling or complementary therapies.
All participants self-referred into the groups and drop in sessions. Our support group dedicated a full session to confidence building and effective conversations. Our counsellors supported the carers to explore and clarify their thoughts and feelings around their carer role, help promote a deeper understanding of emotions and thoughts and look at tools which could help improve feelings of confidence and control.
Our therapists delivered a taster session on capacitor (Tai Chi and gentle movement) and a session on relaxation skills and techniques. This helped facilitate ways to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress or low mood therefore improving and promoting an increased sense of well-being.
We also reached out to those carers who live in remote and rural areas. Our volunteer drivers provided free transportation into our centres for carers to attend the support groups.
The support groups delivered went really well and all that attended managed to attend all 4 weeks. We did however realise quickly that the 4 week format would not work for all carers. So, to make sure there was equity of services we delivered our 2 drop in carer sessions. The carers didn’t necessarily gain any support from other carers but they did go on to attend other groups within the centre.
What Ayrshire Cancer Support has learned
We have learnt that flexibility is paramount to delivering a successful carer group. We spent time trying to develop a carer group that would maximise attendees but found we had to deliver different ways for carers to access the services required.
We have learnt the importance of targeting families most in need and the difficulties and challenges faced by carers to leave the home. We have looked at other ways of delivering our services to carers. We have also learnt that partnership working may be beneficial for carers.
Instead of running another carer group with different content should we partnership work with existing carer groups and attend these well established groups.
How Ayrshire Cancer Support has benefitted from the funding
Creative breaks have enabled us to pilot a new service. This funding allowed us to develop and deliver a new carer group/service. The money allowed us to respond to the verbal feedback we have received from the public with regards to delivering cancer specific carer services.
Carers will have an improved sense of health and well –being. They will feel more confident in their caring role. They will have learnt new skills to manage difficult situations, improve communications skills. Reduce feeling of anxiety, stress and isolation. Gain new coping strategies or skills.
All carers reported back both verbally and by questionnaire, 100% of carers reported an improved sense of health and well-being, 90% felt more confident in general but not specifically in their caring role. 85% reported learning new skills had helped improve their communications skills, 100% reported back feeling less anxious and stressed. 100% reported positive feedback from the capacitar and relaxation session, 50% felt that the benefit from a carer only group The first session which looked at challenges and experiences of caring reported back as being very useful. The evaluation also showed everyone reported learning a great deal from the course.
The carers will have learnt new relaxation and breathing techniques. Improved sense of well-being, increased confidence, built new peer support relationships, access to other Ayrshire Cancer Support Services but also access to other information/signposting to services which may help.
All carers reported back that they had learnt new skills from either attending the carer support group or attending another support group via their drop in visit. Capacitar delivered in week 3 incorporates practices of Tai Chi and GI Gong movements with relaxation exercises, acupressure points and hand massage to develop an individual’s physical resilience and mental well-being. The carers were taught how to perform the practices so they could continue them in their own homes. The relaxation session concentrated on how to properly relax to help relieve anxiety and stress and again increase the carer’s sense of improved well-being. The techniques taught in session 4 showed the carers how to cope better, relieve stress, improve sleeplessness and reduce anxiety and worries when at home. The evaluation reported back that these sessions were the most useful.
Carers will have an awareness of our support service and the ability to drop in whenever they need. Carer verbalising and feeling the benefits from attending our programme.
100% of carers reported back that the least useful part of the 4 week group was week 3 where our counsellors covered external resources and signposting. All the carers had accessed or were aware of most external carer services already. Many of them carers went on to access one of Ayrshire Cancer Support’s specific support groups. 4 carers accessed our 8 week mindfulness group, 4 accessed the 10 weeks capacitar group, 4 accessed the 6 week relaxation group and 5 accessed the 4 week Reiki training workshop. We also had 9 carers refer onto our 1:1 counselling sessions and 15 refer themselves to our 1:1 Complementary Therapy sessions. We also have carers who did not access any bookable services due to their carer role. But they have taken advantage of our drop in services, where they can attend at any time and have reported back the benefits of a listening ear.