Carer Support Project
A story by Glasgow Association for Mental Health
We provided opportunities for Mental Health Carers including those from hardly reached communities to participate in ” Me Time” health and well being sessions, learning activities and social outings.
Sessions included pampering, self-management, crafts,computing, cooking and dancing focusing on fun time out from caring.
What Carer Support Project did
We have had a busy and rewarding year delivering this project. The staff team within the Carer Support Project were able to identify Carers including those from hard to reach communities who needed a break. We did this through our assessment and review processes as well as through one to one support and Carer Groups.
Promotional material was distributed widely through our networks including the Glasgow City Carers Partnership and a "Me Time" press release was put out on our website. We built on the success of last years funded project to include 3 x 8 week building skills courses in addition to health and well being and social opportunities. These courses included cookery, computing (including how to use a tablet) and arts and crafts.
The 12 social opportunities included a variety of things that Carers identified they would be interested in such as a trip to the Ballet, Wind-Farm Visit, Furniture Up Cycling, Christmas Wreath Making and a Powerboat Trip, the 4 health and well being opportunities included Capacitar, Zumba Gold, Indian Dancing and Aromatherapy.
Carers' suggestions and ideas for the opportunities were gathered through our consultation process which included questionnaires and focus groups. All of the opportunities were facilitated, organised and coordinated by staff including any transport requirements as carers had identified that staff taking responsibility for the organising was in itself helpful in overcoming a barrier for them to attend.
Carers also reported that they often did not prioritise their own relationships and health and well being due to the demands of their caring role. By focusing on these areas we were able to effectively reduce barriers, social isolation and have a positive impact on carers own health and well being by letting them focus on having fun with other carers and have some much needed "Me Time".
She attended our aromatherapy health and well-being opportunity and reported an increase in her mental health and well-being over the day (improving from ‘poor’ before the event to ‘very good’ post event). Through informal discussions with other carers and the tutor over the day, she was able to identify things that protected and promoted her own mental health and well-being and gained some new ideas of things to try such as mindfulness and capacitar.
Jackie said, “It’s good to be reminded about the different things that do help your mood”.
Sarah was keen to attend the craft course as it was something completely different and new for her, she found that after a couple of weeks of her attending her husband was more able to cope with his anxiety when she wasn’t around allowing her to feel more confident taking part in activities outwith her caring role. She said that this also improved her mental well-being as she was doing something for herself for a change.
Sarah benefited from the support and understanding of other carers, and also made positive links with the people who ran the community hub and started volunteering with them after the craft course was finished in order to safeguard some ‘me time’ in her week.
Sarah said, “I now go out when I feel I need time out… I feel better for getting breaks away [from caring].”
Eileen attended our computer course, hoping to learn to be more independent when using the internet and her tablet so she didn’t have to ask for help all the time. A taxi was arranged to enable Eileen to attend the course independently which was held in an accessible city centre venue. Eileen was initially anxious about attending the course as she felt she might be too old to learn to use the computer as her family had given up trying to teach her.
She was quickly reassured by the other Carers and the tutor that it was never too late to learn and found the relaxed atmosphere and time away from her caring role really helped her to learn. She now uses her tablet to Skype her grandson and said, “It was great to get out and forget about my caring role while learning something new. I’ve gained a lot of confidence and don’t have to ask for help all the time when I’m using the computer now.”
Eileen has since gone on to start her ECDL at her local library and is looking into the possibility of advancing her learning through the Open University.
What Glasgow Association for Mental Health has learnedThe funding for the Me Time Project has been very welcome and it has given unpaid Mental Health Carers fantastic opportunities to participate in activities which promote their own health and well being and which gives them time out from their caring role. The building skills element to the project was very well received and carers enjoyed the computing, arts and crafts up cycling and cooking courses, giving carers a sense of achievement and improving their confidence.
The breaks were very well received and had great benefits for the carers, building resilience, self esteem, confidence and having fun! The project was a great success, however we did encounter some challenges in regards to last minute cancellations at times. Staff would pull on our reserve list and most opportunities had full attendance. It is important to be very organised and to be aware that staff resources will be utilised to ensure people can attend.
We have also been offering the project to new carers to our service and staff needed to encourage those carers to take time out to attend activities, however once they did they realised the benefit of taking part. This time around to overcome mobility issues and to enable carers to attend we had to provide transport more than we had anticipated, however we felt that it was important to enable those carers to attend and get a break.
The project was designed around the feedback we received through our consultation period and this helped to ensure that the project was successful. We now are hoping to mainstream some of the activities within our current Carer Support Project and we will utilise the i pad and tablet to run further computing courses and in our future work with the open university. We also intend to continue to offer occasional health and well being and social opportunities.