Caring for Carers
A story by Carers of West Lothian
Our project supported adult and young carers to manage their health and emotional wellbeing by providing a break away from caring, offering the opportunity to meet other carers in a safe environment while developing self-management skills.
What Caring for Carers did
Our project included two wellbeing weekend breaks, a 'Caring for You' weekend and an intergenerational wellbeing day for carers. Our project was delivered at Carlow Lodge, Fife between the April to September 2023. We had exclusive use of the venue and grounds.
We advertised our project widely using various means of publicity including online and in our printed newsletter. We encouraged new carers and carers who have not previously benefitted from similar support to engage. We used feedback and evaluation from last years project to plan this years project as well as consulting with carers prior to the activities.
The project was supported by volunteers and staff who had been involved last year and in the planning. We also worked with partners delivering the activities who were used last year and evaluated well.
Our project addressed the following principle's:
Mutual benefit – Carers and the person they care for benefited from this project by having some time apart to look after their own health and emotional wellbeing. For the cared for person, they had time with other family members or carers. This allowed them to have different life experiences.
Personalisation – Through consultation and ‘get together sessions’ with carers prior to the activity, we co-develop our plan to ensure individual needs were considered.
Targeted support – Through the promotion of our project, we targeted hidden and hard to reach carers including BME and rural carers.
Adding value – This project added value to the Scottish and UK economy by helping carers to maintain their health and wellbeing so they can continue to care.
Developing knowledge and understanding – Through our project, carers gained knowledge and understanding through interacting with their peers.
During the wellbeing weekends and wellbeing day, carers had real opportunity to develop confidence, new skills and make new friends. Our initial application was to deliver four weekends however feedback from last year (received after application) informed us that not all carers could manage a weekend and a day would be beneficial so we adapted our project to deliver three wellbeing weekends and a day,
What Carers of West Lothian has learned
Our original application was to deliver four weekends and no wellbeing day. This application was submitted prior to our wellbeing day the year before and on the back of it's success, it was clear carers needed the option between a weekend and day as not all carers can stay away overnight. We used the feedback and evaluations to adapt our plan and changed one of the weekends to a day event.
Carers need this type of support and opportunities to get away. The time out and peer support are vital to carers wellbeing and ability to manage at home.
Following the closure of a local parent support charity, we have seen an increase in parent carers coming to us for support and their need to connect with other carers but especially parent carers who understand each others situation and journey's.
How Carers of West Lothian has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks funding has allowed us to expand and deliver services we would otherwise not be able to offer and reach more and new carers. This is our second year receiving this grant and it has allowed us to continue offering this much needed wellbeing support. Feedback from this project has been extremely good and this impacts us as an organisation positively by increasing our capacity and how people perceive us. It has allowed us to continue to build on the relationships and partnerships made as a result of past projects and supports local small businesses and social enterprises.
Carers will report that they have been able to enjoy life outside of their caring role by attending one of our wellbeing events as part of this project.
All carers reported that they had been able to relax and enjoy their time away from the person they care for. Carers used the opportunity to take time for themselves, which many said they had never done or rarely get the opportunity to do. This included relaxation and enjoying their own space and quiet time as well as the chance to meet other people and socialise. Carers enjoyed taking part in activities that were new to them and that were solely about them such as reflexology, massage and tai chi.
Carer 1 is the main carer for their young child with several long-term health conditions as well as caring for their other children. Carer 1 was new to Carers of West Lothian and had never engaged with any of our support prior to this weekend and reported feeling lost and having a low mood before coming along. Their opportunities to have tine away and a break were very limited. Carer 1 embraced the weekend and participated in all the activities. They bonded with other carers who they have remained in contact with. By the end of the weekend they said, 'I feel totally different, relaxed, recharged and ready to face anything. I can honestly say this weekend has saved my sanity.'
After having a break, carers will report that they feel rested and better equipped in their caring role.
All carers reported improvements in the health and wellbeing outcomes we monitor before and after support. This includes health, emotional wellbeing, life balance and feeling valued. Carers reported feeling rested after their break away with many feeling they had learned new coping strategies and tools and that its ok to take time for themselves without feeling guilty.
Carer 2 who supports their autistic children and is a lone parent with very minimal support was able to arrange for respite to attend our weekend which was their first time away. They were very anxious about leaving and very nearly cancelled however, their friends and family recognised the importance of the opportunity to have some time out. Carer 2 was shy and anxious on the first night but after getting to know everyone and realising it was ok to take time for them themselves, they embraced the weekend and felt refreshed by the end. This included making the most of all the facilities, including the bath! They said: 'All I can say is i had the best bath and sleep. I lay in the bath for ages reading my kindle which was a novelty.' 'I am refreshed and looking forward to going home and taking the next steps and learning as a family. I've had a great weekend and I have needed it so much. This weekend made me realise what I need to learn and change at home as it gave me time and space to think about things and a chance to talk to other carers.'
Following attendance at one of our events, carers, and the person they care for will report improved wellbeing
All carers attending our project activity reported an improvement in wellbeing. Having time away from their caring responsibilities was beneficial for all parties. Many carers told us that the person they care for enjoyed the time they had with other family and friends. Some carers said they felt less guilty because their cared for person had plans and in some cases, their cared for person encouraged them to come and take time for themselves.
Young carer 3 lives with their mum and siblings of which all are autistic. Young carer 3 rarely gets time on their own and provides a lot of support to their mum and siblings. They also share a room with a sibling and can find this quite challenging as they get no break. Young carer 3 enjoyed having a room to themselves and a chance to listen to music on their own with no interruptions, something they rarely get to do. They reported this was their favourite thing about the weekend and felt it helped their relationship with the person they care for as they both got much need time and space away from each other. They reported that they were going home rested and more prepared. They said: 'I loved time in my room and the chance to be on my own. I listened to my music uninterrupted!'
Additional project outcome
Carers will report feeling connected to peers they meet as part of this project and feel part of a caring community. Friendships developed will provide long term support beyond this project.
During the weekend relationships were formed and this provided much needed support. We had two parent carers attend our weekend, both caring for autistic children. One was at the very start of their diagnosis and journey and the other, who's child was a bit older, was further along their journey. They made a strong connection throughout the weekend, talking a lot and sharing experiences with each other. This really helped both cares by learning from each others experiences and knowledge. The carer at the start of their journey said, 'I got a chance to write a plan of action of what our next steps are, but I also learned I'm not alone.'