Carers Choice Befriending Service
A story by The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice
The Carers Choice Service offered carers an opportunity to have a short break from caring, through offering a Volunteer Befriender once a week to spend time with the person they are caring for.
Carers could choose to have some quality time to themselves, or access hospice services.
What Carers Choice Befriending Service did
The Carers Choice Befriending Service supports carers of hospice patients. The 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 annually, 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. We also offer a Carers Assessment, which highlights any additional support that the carers may benefit from.
Many carers use 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.
What The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice has learned
Three years on, the ‘Carers Choice Service continues to progress and develop, we have continued to promote our service within the hospice, leading to frequent referrals from our teams, with more carers receiving support.
The introduction of the Carers Assessment, which is carried out by the support worker on the initial visit, highlights patients and families most in need of support. 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.
Through delivering the befriending project we have learned that many of our carers develop ill health themselves .In special circumstances a befriender may be offered for more than 1 day per week, this benefits carers who are attending hospital visits themselves, or are really struggling with their own health needs. We also have now agreed to offer urgent befriending visits, this helps carers who may require urgent hospital scans or input. It is also very beneficial for carers who are experiencing extreme emotional distress and require counselling, or added support.
Subsequently, we continue to learn from carers and patients, their feedback influences change, ensuring that through co-production we offer the right service design and maximum support. In recognition of this feedback we now offer telephone support over flexible hours, as many of our carers are dealing with unexpected challenges and benefit from professional advice and sign posting to relevant services and professionals.
Consequently we also recognise the importance of partnership working. We continue to build on our existing links with local befriending and care organisations to maximise support for our carers within the hospice and also in the community.
How The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice has benefitted from the funding
The Carers Choice Befriending Service has benefited greatly from receiving funding from The Short Breaks Fund. Their support throughout the years has permitted us to support carers and patients in a different way. The development of our Carers Choice Befriending Service allowed us to maximise support for carers and try out different ways of working in palliative care. The funding has allowed us to continue staff training and development, with staff attending regular training events, to help support service delivery and development. Being a member of the Befriending Network has increased our knowledge, and allowed us to deliver specialist education and training to our own volunteer befrienders. The Carers Choice Befriending Service has expanded its services throughout the years, and are passing this knowledge onto other Hospices who are keen to offer carers support.
50 Carers of Hospice patients living with life limiting illnesses, will have improved wellbeing.
Offering a weekly befriending service to hospice patient's allowed our carers time to spend enjoying recreational activities with their friends and families. It also provided time for carers who were unwell themselves to access more suppor , many of them accessing counselling and complementary therapies within the hospice. Additionally carers found the theraputic services very beneficial. Pre and Post evaluation questionnaires showed that carers reported an increase in their feeling of wellbeing, and many accessed the service more than once.
Gerry cares for his wife Jean, Jean has been very breathless for years and now struggles to walk far, she also suffers from depression. Gerry spends most of his time doing housework and shopping, they do not have any family to support them. The couple accepted a Befriender to allow Gerry to catch up with paperwork, and his weekly shop, it also allowed him time to relax away from the caring role. Gerry said “ it was great just to relax, even for a while in my own home”. The couple accessed the service numerous times over the year, and it became more of a support when Gerry was also diagnosed with a life limiting illness. He said “I would not have managed to cope with all that is going on with my own illness, without the support. it allowed me time for my personal appointments to hospital, I really do think it helped me cope better” Jean also found the befriender very supportive, the couple had lost their son a few years previous, and Jean’s mood had became very low. Gerry said “ The befriender was a great listener, and great company for Jean, they had a lot in common. Jean’s mood lifted when the befriender visited I felt she confided in the befriender”. “Jean agreed I feel more calm and relaxed, and I have met some great people”. Gerry added “ there is nothing I would change, its an amazing service, and its been great for the both of us”.
50 Carers of Hospice patients will have the opportunity to enjoy life out with their caring role.
The Carers Choice Befriending Service offers carers a 3 hour break each week, allowing carers time outwith the caring role. Pre and post evaluation showed that carers reported an increase in confidence, with carers taking on new hobbies, and accessing more support in their community.
Aileen lives with her husband Arthur, Arthur had previously been a day services patient at the hospice, this had allowed Aileen some time in the week to catch up on shopping and meeting friends, but Arthur's health had changed, and now he had became housebound. Aileen now had no time to herself, and found this difficult especially as her daughter was getting married and they were trying to plan the wedding. The couple agreed to try the befriending service, Aileen said “at first I though Arthur might be uptight, but it was a great match”. Arthur added “we discuss everything, the befriender is so knowledgeable and we have very similar interests, I really appreciate it because I don’t get out much. Aileen added “ it made such a difference, it gave me peace and reassurance that my husband was with someone safe”.” It also gave me time outside of my caring role, we were very happy with the service and it had excellent grounds of looking at both the carer and the patient, we could not ask for anything better”.
50 Carers of Hospice patients will feel better supported to sustain their caring role.
The Carers Choice Service is offered to all hospice carers, it is noted that there is an increase in repeated referrals for carers who are looking after loved ones who require 24 hour care. Many of these carers are struggling to continue their caring role, or feel they do not want to leave their loved one alone at any time. Pre and Post evaluation questionnaires capture the breakdown in relationships, sustainability of caring role, and support offered. Carers report that the befriending service improves the relationship, and stops the breakdown of the caring role. Also the added carer assessment offers carers additional support to continue their caring role .
Jenny cares for her husband Michael who has a life limiting illness, and is housebound. They have both relocated from England to be closer to their daughter. Jenny also helps to care for her daughter who has restricted mobility. Jenny spends all of her time looking after her family, she is anxious when she has to leave Michael alone, but wants to be there at times for her daughter also. Jenny said “I don’t have to worry now about leaving Michael alone, I was always in a rush, now I can take time to go out with my daughter, we enjoy going out in the car or for lunch”. Jenny also advised “my daughter does not go out alone, and I don’t have friends in Glasgow, so its nice for the two of us, gives us both something to look forward to every week”. Michael spends time listening to music and watching t.v.,” he was always a very social man” Jenny comments, “he always had lots of friends, it was so nice when he had someone to talk to, male company, the befriender has given him that again”. Michael agrees “ I enjoy having company, someone else to talk to, and enjoy my music with”.