A story by Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice
We provided the Carers Choice Service offering carers an opportunity to have a short break from caring, through a Volunteer Befriender. Allowing them to spend time with their cared for person (patient) at home.
Carers were offered a choice of accessing Hospice based therapies and support or using the time to catch up with family or friends, or alternatively accessing leisure and recreational activities.
What Carers Choice did
The Carers Choice Service is advertised on the Hospice Website, Facebook and in 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 10 volunteer befrienders, who all participated 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. 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 outwith their family. The befriender remains in the house with the patient and participate in activities such as reading the paper, hobbies, crosswords or just chatting about interests.
Carers are referred to the service by hospice staff, and carers can be re referred to the service after the initial 8 week session. We have reviewed the service over the year, and now offer the same befriender for up to 16 weeks if this is beneficial, with a view to a different befriender thereafter if the service is still required.
“I felt stressed and unwell, the befriending service allowed me to think of myself and have alone time, it’s fantastic!”
Her husband also enjoyed meeting and spending time with someone new out-with the family. He said “Mary looked more relaxed after her short break, she was happier when returning home, and wasn’t stressed as she knows I am being looked after”.” I also enjoyed the company even though it is difficult for me to communicate at times”. Mary and her husband advised ‘”Both of us were struggling, we cannot thank you enough for this service, it made such a difference”.
John benefited from a volunteer befriender, allowing him to access appointments and also do the weekly shopping. “It allowed me more time for myself, I can now organise outings and appointments, and I feel more relaxed”.
“I also have time to do chores and meet friends, it’s a wonderful service”. His wife enjoyed her time chatting with the volunteer befriender, and also teaching the befriender to knit. She advised “I like meeting new people, and I adored the befriender, it was such an excellent match, I am looking forward to more”.
Patricia benefited from a volunteer befriender. “The service allowed me peace of mind; I felt more relaxed knowing mum was safe”.” I had time on my own, and it also allowed me to concentrate on other things”
Also “Mum seemed to enjoy herself, and had stories to discuss with us, because she had spoken to someone new”.” This made me happy as I knew mum was enjoying herself too, excellent experience”
What Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice has learnedOur matching of carers and befrienders has gone very well, with some carers requesting a continuance of the Carers Choice Service. Carers advised that they felt more supported by accessing the service allowing them to fulfil their caring role. Although some carers request more than one 8 week session, there have been challenges due to the palliative nature of our patients, with patients taking unwell before the 8 weeks have been completed.
Our team of volunteer befrienders have displayed effective coping strategies, which is due to robust training, and support. Also many have previously had a career in health care. The service is also very personalised due to the support worker visiting the patient within their home. This allows time for the carer and patient to familiarise themselves with the service, following up with a second visit introducing the befriender.
Support workers attend team meetings to raise awareness of the service, and highlight carers who may benefit from a befriender. The majority of carers have been referred from our community team, this has attracted new carers into our services, many experiencing carer support for the first time.