A story by The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice
We offered carers an opportunity to have a short break from caring, by offering a Volunteer Befriender once a week to spend time with the person they are caring for.
Carers had some quality time to themselves, or could use this time to access hospice based activities and support.
What Carers Choice did
The Carers Choice Service is advertised on the Hospice website, Facebook and The Evening Times. Leaflets are also available to carers and patients, offering information and advice on how to refer. The service is managed by a Senior Charge Nurse and 2 Support Workers who are responsible for delivering the service and supporting the volunteer befrienders.
Volunteers are recruited through volunteer centres, social media, newspaper and our initial cohort of hospice volunteers. A robust training programme was completed by volunteer befrienders in year one, and we have repeated this process with more volunteers in year 2, all volunteer befrienders participate in a final interview.
Hospice carers are supported by offering a volunteer befriender to sit with the patient for 3 hours once a week, over an 8 week period. This can be increased to 16 weeks at the carers request. If carers still require the service thereafter, they can be re referred and continue to access support. Carers used this time to catch up with family and friends and to access social, leisure and recreational activities which helps them have a short break from their caring role. Alternatively, it also allows them time to access therapeutic hospice services.
The volunteer befriender carries out a purely social role, allowing the patient time to spend with someone else out with their family. The befriender remains in the house with the patient and participates in activities such as reading the paper, hobbies, crosswords or just chatting about interests. Carers are referred to the service by hospice staff, who identify patients and carers who would benefit from this service.
Jim said ' I have time now to do things around the house, and in the garden, things that i struggled to catch up with, its great having the befriender, i don’t have to worry when I am outside'.
Jim benefited from a volunteer befriender, who visited his wife Jane once a week. This allowed Jim an opportunity to spend time in his garden, and his own space within his potting shed, without worrying that Jane was alone. It also allowed him time to catch up on household chores. Jane also enjoyed the company of the volunteer befriender, 'its nice having a chat with someone else, it can be difficult with my breathlessness, so it was great having the volunteer befriender visit me at home'.
'I needed support, and someone to talk to, it was great receiving counselling and complementary therapy straight after, i had time to do both, great service'
Sarah needed time away to express her feelings, and also benefited from relaxation. Her father Joe also benefited from a volunteer befriender, as he had some male company. Joe advised he enjoyed sharing stories with the volunteer befriender, they both came from different cultural backgrounds, and found their time together very interesting.
Joe said ' I would never have had the chance to talk to someone like the befriender , this wouldn’t happen in my every day life' 'i enjoyed reminiscing, and having male company, as I am surrounded by females, looking after me'.
Janet benefited from a volunteer befriender staying with her mum once a week, this allowed her time to socialise with her friends, and plan ahead. Janet stated 'it was great to make arrangements to meet her friends, and plan what they were going to do a few weeks ahead'.
Janet said ' I am so grateful I have been offered this service, more than once'. 'It has made such a difference, I worried because mum slept a lot, but I realise the volunteer befrienders are aware of this, and it is not an issue'. 'I hope to continue benefiting from the service, and I can't thank you enough'
What The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice has learnedThe offer of repeating the Carers Choice befriending service after 8 weeks and offering 16 weeks with the same befriender has worked very well. Patients who are more stable but require 24 hour care have benefited hugely from this. We also recognise the benefit to carers who are looking after their loved one at end of life, and although these carers may only benefit for a short period of befriending, it is very beneficial for their well being to have this support.
Promotion of the befriending service has been productive, and our teams now refer regularly. Leaflets continue to be given out to patients and carers on initial assessment, raising awareness of the befriending service at an earlier stage. But we do recognise that this can still be a challenge, with many carers accepting the service later due to carer distress .
Some of our first recruitment of volunteer befrienders have moved on, mainly due to work and family commitments, but with recruitment on-going and training established yearly we have successfully managed to replace volunteers. It is also noted that volunteer befrienders offer their services more regularly than we expected. With an average 46 weeks been offered rather than the 40 weeks we estimated.
Consequently, we have made our service more personalised with the introduction of the carers assessment, which is carried out by the support worker on the initial 1st visit. The carers assessment focuses on preventing crisis by offering maximum support, rather than waiting on a crisis occurring. Carers are then signposted to relevant supportive services, or issues are flagged up to the professionals looking after the patient.
We recognise that only a small amount off carers from our BME communities have chosen to access the service, however we are hoping to nurture engagement by offering a support call to BME carers from our cultural liaison officer, who also has a role as a support worker in our befriending service. The hospice has continued to share the learning from this project with other Scottish hospices, who are also keen to offer appropriate support to their carers.