Carers 50+ Covid Recovery & Wellbeing Project
A story by Glasgow East End Community Carers
Our Project provided creative solutions for carers as they began a new life out of lockdown. We provided regular, ongoing breaks from the caring role, delivered via a wellbeing activity breaks programme comprising a broad range of activities and facilitated WhatsApp groups for Peer Support.
What Carers 50+ Covid Recovery & Wellbeing Project did
We delivered a wide-ranging portfolio of activities throughout the year which included, Digital Communication Skills – carers learned new skills including getting the most out of your smartphone, basic IT and accessing remote platforms. Health & Wellbeing – activities included grooming/pampering/beauty sessions massage.
Sessions, mindfulness classes, tai-chi, and activities on self-care, tackling loss, and change and positive futures, Physical Health - healthy eating & cooking courses, gentle exercise/yoga. Outdoor & Active – sailing on the Clyde, barge trips on the Forth & Clyde canal, allotment gardening, weekly local park-walks & monthly country walking.
Expressive & Creative –indoor/outdoor smartphone photography, social – Christmas Lunch, Carers Cafe. Peer Support – priority to Carers Café, Male Carers Group and Ladies ‘Healthy for Longer’ groups for which we facilitated and monitored WhatsApp chat groups. These activities took place throughout the year and the events, especially outdoor were planned around the seasons. We used our Centre and local facilities such as the local Golf Club when our premises did not have the required capacity to hold the event.
Some of the classes were held online using the Zoom platform and the ability to record allowed us to share these classes so that carers who could not make the class due to, for example, work commitments could still participate at a time that suited them most. This was a great success and something that will be used more in the future.
Our project was aimed specifically at carers aged 50+. As an organisation working in our local community for over 20 years, we recognised the need for support within this group and the impact that Covid-19 had upon them. We carried out a series of consultation exercises using such applications as Survey Monkey, as well as receiving one-to-one feedback direct from carers and from this we developed the activities that they identified as being most useful and from which they would gain the most benefit.
On the whole the project ran according to plan with adaptions being made in line with restrictions that were in place at the time.
What Glasgow East End Community Carers has learned
One thing the pandemic helped us focus on was the project planning and budgeting as things were extremely likely to change and we had to put alternative plans in place. This experience will be useful as we navigate our way through the cost-of-living crisis.
We partnered up with Edinburgh Carers, sharing resources when delivering some of the practical classes like Healthy Eating and Digital Photography on the Zoom platform. Our Carers found this beneficial too and some have struck up friendships with the carers from Edinburgh
How Glasgow East End Community Carers has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Creative Breaks has allowed us to continue to meet our aims-to improve the lives of carers in the East end of Glasgow. During the year we have learned to deal with an ever-changing environment and improve our skillset in areas such as social media and digital platforms which allow us to both keep carers informed of what is going on and to provide activities when face to face contact was advised to be avoided. It also allowed us to provide activities that the carer could participate in at a time that suited them and allow it to fit in with the timescale of the caring role. We have also begun to partner up with other like organisations, in other parts of Scotland, sharing resources as we delivered activities to carers. Our staff certainly feel that they have made a difference and the reputation of the Centre has continued to grow in a positive way.
70 senior carers and the person they care for will have benefitted from re-establishing connections with their community and enjoyed time away from their day-to-day caring relationship, participating in activities of their choosing. This may involve the support of a volunteer or paid-for befriender.
This outcome has been fully achieved with 114 carers being supported as Covid restrictions eased and they began to integrate back into the community. We had set up WhatsApp groups and used the Zoom platform during lockdown to provide activities and maintain support for carers. As restrictions eased, we gradually introduced face to face classes, in our Covid secure facility, organising respite care from our Homecare service to allow the carers to attend and freeing them form the day-to day caring role, knowing their loved one was safe at home. The Vegetarian for Life cookery classes proved to be very popular. The Carers Cafe gave the carers the opportunity to simply meet up and socialise and share the experiences they had endured throughout the pandemic and what had helped them alleviate the stress of being confined to their home. The attendance at the cafe is now almost double the pre-pandemic levels and shows just how much the carers had missed the companionship of their peers.
Margaret, 68, is a widow who cares for her son, Michael 42 who was involved in a car accident when he was 23, causing a severe brain injury which left him severely disabled. She also has a married daughter who helps take care of her brother. She initially came to the Hub seeking some financial support and assistance with completing some paperwork. At her initial meeting, she was informed of the other activities that were currently running at the Centre. She had said that she was concerned about leaving her son alone, so we put in place support from the Homecare team to allow her to attend the classes and activities she chose to participate in. Margaret enrolled in the digital photography class and by the time she finished the course she was thrilled to show off the fruits of her labour – explaining what she had learned when it came to capturing the “perfect image”. She said it felt great to be involved in the class – it took her mind off everything and was the ideal escape. This was something she would continue to do. Encouraged by the experience she became part of Living for Longer group and participated in the Health Eating class and with other carers she learned who to prepare and cook inexpensive meals that were both healthy and tasty. She also enjoyed a Health Spa outing with her peers at Crutherland House Hotel Spa. Both Margaret and Michael attended the Christmas lunch and Michael was delighted to receive his present from Santa. Margaret said “It’s been great getting to know everyone. As well as enjoying the classes, when I come to the Centre, I can chat with people who know what I am going through, and I don’t feel alone. The photography class was brilliant, and I have been taking lots of pictures of my grandkids on my phone –My daughter says they look really professional. The staff have been fantastic. I feel confident that I can call on them for help if I need it, they have been so good to me and Michael”
70 carers will have felt listened to and supported on their journey out of the Covid pandemic through meaningful breaks delivered via a choice of platforms. In addition, they will have benefitted from additional supports offered by the Carers Hub to support them tackling issues arising over lockdown
This outcome was completed in that we not only supported carers back into some sort of normality as restrictions were eased but by listening to what they said they needed we shaped the activities that they would benefit from and give them a sense of belonging and reducing the feeling of isolation that many felt during the periods of lockdown. Some were delivered by Zoom and these could be recorded, and Carers could participate at a time that best suited them, but it was the personal interaction that made the biggest impact. Some carers were on their knees and the benefit they got from having someone just listening to them, unburdening themselves cannot be underestimated. As the year progressed, we found ourselves in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis which has resulted in our Information and Advice service being in great demand as carers, often the people with the lowest income really felt the pinch. We assisted in maximising the benefits they were entitled to.
Wilma struggled with anxiety, feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. She looks after her older sister and has done so for many years. She has devoted herself to her care role and has neglected to nurture her own needs, including her creativity, over the years. During lockdown Wilma was referred to us by the local Healthcare worker. We were able to connect her to a community of carers from all backgrounds who understood her challenges and allowed her to share her vulnerabilities without judgement. This supported her to make new friendships and she began to grow in confidence. When we offered our Carers the chance to participate in our Create Arts course, Wilma grasped the opportunity with both hands. She reported. ‘I really enjoyed myself - being able to express -I feel like a kid again. it was great to have something to look forward to, which I was able to do at home as I don’t have anyone to take over for me. I found all of the tasks helped me to relax and unwind, especially drawing which I enjoyed doing as a child and I am sketching more and more at night when I have free time.’ The project has helped move Wilma from feeling isolated to being confident and having new friends who are encouraging and supportive
70 carers and the people they care for will feel less isolated and lonely post-lockdown, better able to connect within the community and will feel more positive about their lives again.
These aims we believe have been fully achieved. As an organisation we continually monitor the service we provided and in a recent evaluation completed by carers we received the following responses: 100% feel valued and respected by our workers, 100% have improved quality of life since accessing the Hub services and activities. 93% feel less isolated and 95% report they are better able to continue in their caring role. 91% are better connected within the community, 88% are less stressed, 85% have improved emotional wellbeing. 55% have also experience improved physical wellbeing and 90% of respondents accessing benefits advice reported that they were better able to manage their caring role as a result of advice from out Information and Advice Officer.
Elizabeth is 84 and is a full time Carer for her husband, Francis who was recently diagnosed with dementia. She initially came into contact with the Hub staff while they were giving a talk to the Carers group at Parkview resource centre, which offers support to older people with mental health problems and dementia. During discussions she said she was finding things tough with the cost of everything going up and advised that her husband was not in receipt of Attendance Allowance, so they both came to the Hub, and we made an application for him. He was awarded AA at the higher rate, and then we also applied for Elizabeth, who has significant health problems herself and she was also awarded the higher rate of the benefit. They were then able to apply for Pension Credits and were awarded £148 a week. They have bought their home but are no longer eligible to pay Council Tax which is a saving of £95 a month. They are now better off by almost £1500 per month. Despite their health problems, Elizabeth and Francis are an outgoing and very friendly couple, who have become regular users of the services at the Hub. They come to the Carers Café and have attended the summer barge trip and Christmas lunch. Elizabeth has also come to the Dementia clinic facilitated by Alzheimer’s Scotland and regularly attends the Dementia support group. Elizabeth has said that she appreciates the support of other Carers who understand the situation she is in and is more confident now in looking after Francis. She also enjoys being able to bring him along to events, as it gives them the chance to go out as a couple and feels that he really enjoys the company. Her son Colin, who helps look after both parents says that he feels less anxious about his mum, in particular, because he knows she is in touch with the staff at the Hub and has somewhere to turn if she is struggling with his dad.