Caring for our BIG Families
A story by Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group
We delivered a social programme including trips and support for our carers and the people that they care for, supporting the family unit.
What Caring for our BIG Families did
Because of Covid lockdown and restrictions we were unable to commence our "Caring for our BIG Families" project until August. In normal circumstances we would have fully utilised the funding by end September but this was not going to be possible in 2021. We therefore applied for and were granted an extension to end December 2021. As detailed in our Mid Grant Report our project remained as listed in our application but we had to review and re-organise our events.
Falconry Centre Huntly - Aug – Our first post lockdown event this had to be scaled down significantly from the event detailed in our app. No bus was arranged but 8 cars carried 26 members to the centre. Lovely weather, a flying display and a socially distanced individually wrapped lunch. A great day out "like a meeting of old friends".
Theatre Trip- Dec - Our planned trip to see "Chicago" was deferred again until April 2022. To arrange a theatre trip during 2021 we purchased 40 tickets for the pantomime. Members gathered on 10th Dec at HMT. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their outing with Ice Cream and Confectionery provided. The general feedback was hugely positive.
Annual Dinner- Palm Court – Sep– organised as dinner in June and 2020 Xmas event had been cancelled. 41 attended. Lovely 2 course meal. Good food, good company – greatly enjoyed by all.
Lochter Activity Centre-Oct – organised as the planned weekend to BRAW was cancelled. A family friendly activity day deferred from June was enjoyed by members . 39 +3 toddlers attended. A full programme of events, Go carting, Segway, Digger driving, Fishing, Archery was available to all. Normally we would have an activity day in May and a Bar B Q in October but due to lockdown we amalgamated the days with a full Bar B Q lunch.
In line with BIG tradition we arranged and paid for our 2021 Christmas function at Codona’s Aberdeen on 15th Dec. This included a full day of activities and a 2 course meal. For many members this is their only Christmas function and is eagerly anticipated. In excess of 40 members were to attend but unfortunately due to Public Health Scotland guidance on 11th Dec this had to be deferred until Feb 2022
What Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group has learned
This has been another very difficult year for BIG and our members. We have had to keep our programme (including the Creative Breaks Project) under constant review taking accounts of ongoing Covid Restrictions and try to anticipate and respond to the changing needs of our members.
We have had to be more flexible and take account of changes which are outwith our control. Our plan B has often moved to Plan C and on. We need to develop more online /virtual options to complement our face to face programme, but have to be aware that not all members are comfortable with the tech. requirements.
When things return to something approaching "normality" we need to completely review our "modus operandi", build on what has worked, re-evaluate and alter or discontinue what hasn't. We can't just assume that it's right because we think it is. Keep an open mind and investigate any new opportunities/activities which would be beneficial for our members.
Make sure we don't overstretch. This leads to failure which is in nobody's best interest. Ensure that the resources /workers / finance/ accommodation etc are in place before committing.
If we involve our members (carers and cared for) more then they commit better to BIG, attend more events etc. Their involvement ensures that the programme remains relevant and forward looking.
How Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group has benefitted from the funding
The funds provided are invaluable to our small charity. We have to raise approx £26k annually to fund our social support programme for members. We have no committed regular funding so the grant goes a good way towards this. Without this assistance we would have to consider cutting back on our programme although this would be a very last resort as our members require the support which it gives them. Increased involvement of a group of our carers on Committee/Sub Committee and in support groups has been very positive.
All of our family carers will have had more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role. We will deliver Christmas and Summer events designed to be truly family friendly. We will plan for higher future attendances (60+) although we expect numbers to be down immediately post lockdown.
Due to the Pandemic there was little opportunity for us to help our carers to have more opportunities outwith their carer role for the first half of the year. As soon as we were able we organised and delivered truly family friendly events to alleviate isolation and help carers and cared for rebuild social interaction. We also arranged a Carers Weekend (funded by another source). We are very aware of how lonely the life of a carer can be and know how much our carers appreciate meeting with others, having their families involved and generally doing “normal” things. We would normally hope for a year on year increase in attendance. New faces bring new opportunities and allow for development of new friendships. We expected that numbers would in fact drop post pandemic and this has been the case. We do expect these numbers to rise again in 2022. Given the challenges and frustrations of the past year we feel this outcome has been achieved.
DN suffered a TBI app 14 years ago. He has significant disabilities mobility, speech etc. He receives support from his father DN senior and brother PN who are his care team. The pressure on the family team is immense and DN senior in particular feels the pressure which impacts on his mood and mental health. As a man he does not talk a lot but comes along with young DN and PN to BIG group events and also attends our male carers meal, and he has started to open up a bit and mix with others. DN senior says "At least when I talk to others at the BIG events they understand where I am coming from. These events are probably the only chance I get to put aside my caring role and have a bit of fun" DN senior has a wicked sense of humour.
Regular and rising attendance at all BIG group events. More carer involvement in BIG initiatives and committee/sub-committee activities. Stronger family bonds through involvement and fun together at BIG events.
Due to the Pandemic our programme of events could only be relaunched in August. When able to we arranged and delivered a Falconry Trip/Annual Dinner/Activity Day/Theatre Trip. All events were arranged to include family members, very successful and thoroughly enjoyed by all attendees. To retain contact and offset isolation during lockdown regular Messenger chats and Zoom Quiz were set up for members. Numbers were initially good but waned dramatically. It became obvious that (while we should continue to investigate online options in the future) face to face events were more important and what our members needed & wanted. We anticipated that numbers would be lower on relaunch and this has been the case. Our events often had 55/60 but at present we are only getting c40. We expect this to improve. 3 carers have joined the committee with 1 other doing our admin. Family bonds were strained during lockdown but improving now BIG events back on. Outcome generally achieved in an unusual year
K has a longstanding brain injury and was only diagnosed after 2 years of assessments and scans with an ABI after an operation on her sinuses and suffering from a rare form of meningitis. Since learning about the BIG Group both K and I have enjoyed coming to the BIG events which boosts their confidence in socialising. I her main carer says " As a family we were very isolated and not made aware of any supports. We decided to make family arrangements to ensure that K got the care she required. I re-arranged my work to take a 4 day on/4 day off rota (I'm now retired). Both our daughters also arranged their working hours to ensure that care was always available for K. K's physical health improved but her care requirements and her lack of confidence to go out and meet people meant that there were severe restrictions on family life and continuing isolation. Learning about and getting involved with BIG Group has been like a door opening. We are now regular attendees at BIG events and both K and I thoroughly enjoy them. We are comfortable in the company of others who have had similar experiences able to talk, laugh and share. K's confidence has been hugely boosted. I wish I had known about BIG Group years ago! BIG is a lifesaver!" I is a BIG committee member and daughter C has also joined the committee. Daughter K2 acts as an admin assist to BIG
20 members carers and cared for will have attended BRAW. Carer frustrations and stress will be lifted by having quality time with their loved one in a non threatening environment others who know and understand ABI. Positive benefits in confidence and emotional wellbeing for all who attend.
We believe this outcome was fully achieved but in a different way to that planned. As a result of Covid Tullialan suspended all weekends in 2021 so BRAW did not take place. BRAW was an activity based event so we arranged a full Activity Day at Lochter Activity Centre Oldmeldrum for July (deferred until October). While this was not a full weekend it did allow us to accommodate nearly double the number of members that BRAW would at roughly the same cost. We are aware that many of our members struggled really badly during lockdown due to isolation/shielding/mental health/lack of stimulation etc At this event the interaction between members and the general atmosphere was truly remarkable leaving no doubt that our programme and events significantly improve the wellbeing and quality of life of all members carers and cared for.
M has a longstanding brain injury caused by encephalitis. She has mobility issues, Emphysema and also is very prone to infections particularly chest infections. Husband L is her main carer and is now retired. M had to shield and essentially could not leave her bedroom for over a year. The lockdown, shielding and the fact that M took seriously ill put a real strain on L and their relationship. They have both welcomed the relaunch of our programme saying "it's like getting out of jail, it keeps us sane" They are regular attenders at BIG events, both attend our Drop-in and L attends the monthly male carers meals