Caring for our BIG Families
A story by Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group
We aimed to improve our support for the whole family unit carers & cared for, we organised truly family friendly Christmas and Summer events to sustain and consolidate family relationships. Send a group of members to Headway “Braw” weekend break and organise a Theatre trip for members.
What Caring for our BIG Families did
The programme as stated in our application was on track in February and it was expected that we would complete as detailed by end September and on budget. However we could not have anticipated the Pandemic and lockdown. We applied for and were granted an extension and alteration in June replacing the Summer outing and Weekend Break which could not be arranged with Online Music and Laughter sessions from June to December and a Lady Carers weekend in October.
The Music and Laughter was set up and a great success; however, again due to restrictions we were unable to proceed with the Lady Carers weekend. A further alteration was sought to allow the funds to be utilised to provide Christmas Hampers for 30 of our most regular and needy families.
Theatre Trip in November to see “Cabaret” – 40 members attended and thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We provided confectionary and ice cream to all. The feedback from members was a massive "Thumbs Up". Many of our members are socially isolated and these outings give them respite from their loneliness and an opportunity to mingle in a non threatening environment with others who face the same challenges.
As has become a tradition we held our Christmas function at Codona’s where 54 members were treated to a lovely 2 course meal and the opportunity to take part in a full day of activities including Dodgems, Bowling, Karaoke and Crazy Golf. For many this is their only Christmas function and is eagerly anticipated. It replaces Office outings etc which are no longer available to our members.
Weekly virtual Music and Laughter sessions have run since June. These have been a great contact during lockdown. Will continue online even when we can resume face to face at Inchgarth.
The 30 Christmas Hampers were well received. Aware that many in these families had been virtually housebound for 9 months we arranged a personal delivery service with doorstep meetings/chats with each household.
What Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group has learned
This has been a very difficult year for everyone. our original project had to be changed on 2 occasions to reflect the changing needs of our members during lockdown and to take account of the Covid restrictions.
We need to be more flexible to take account of changes which are out with our control. A plan B is necessary in all circumstances. We need to make more use of online /virtual options to complement our face to face programme taking into account how popular these have been over the last year.
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.
20 will have attended BRAW. A relaxing and fun time for all. Carer frustrations and stress will be lifted by having had quality time with their loved ones among others who know and understand brain injury at this event. Positive benefits in confidence and mental well being for attendees
As a result of the pandemic the BRAW weekend had to be cancelled. This was eagerly anticipated and all places were filled prior to cancellation. Already we have a list for a potential 2021 BRAW. To retain contact and offset isolation during lockdown regular Messenger chats were set up for members and a Weekly Zoom Quiz established. These were at no cost to BIG but we also set up through Ace Voices a weekly Music and Laughter online session using the Creative Breaks funds.
JD was a senior engineer in the oil industry prior to sustaining an Acquired Brain Injury in a cycling accident. Although he has recovered well physically his brain injury will be lifelong and life changing. He suffers from a lack of confidence and concentration particularly in attending group events and therefore was not comfortable coming along to our Drop Ins and events at Inchgarth Community Centre. He has during the lockdown been involved in our Messenger chats and has been a regular attendee at our Music and Laughter sessions. His confidence has grown over the weeks and he had become much more outgoing - mixes well online with other attendees. He has requested that we continue online activities post pandemic (as we intend to do) as he still feels that he would find group meetings on a face to face basis challenging.
Our family carers will have had more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role, we will deliver a programme of events designed to be truly family friendly. We will plan for higher attendances (60+) with Carers and Cared for feeling more socially confident in truly bonded families
Again due to the Pandemic our social support programme of events had to be suspended. The year started well with 94 members (carers and cared for) attending our Christmas and Theatre events. Both events were arranged to include family members and were very successful and thoroughly enjoyed by all attendees. As already mentioned to retain contact and offset isolation during lockdown regular Messenger chats were set up for members and a Weekly Zoom Quiz established. The response to these was excellent with virtual attendees forming a close contact group and friendships developing. Unfortunately, though, the attendance on line was lower than we would have expected at our face to face events.
"C" cares for his wife "J" who suffers from significant disabilities due to a longstanding Brain Injury. J's condition was not properly diagnosed for quite some time after her injury. C rearranged his work life to enable him to care for J. He moved to part time which put extreme pressure on the family finances. Little support was offered and C & J felt all alone and isolated. In a chance meeting with a BIG group member at the gym where C takes J for exercise they became aware of the support which they could receive from BIG. Meeting up with others who face the same challenges in a non threatening environment has been a great boon to them. Both attend and enjoy most BIG events. C is actively involved with our male carers group and is now on the team who organise and delivery our weekly Drop In (Covid permitting).
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
We feel we have been successful in supporting carers to sustain their caring role as far as is possible in these strange times. Our personal delivery of Christmas Hampers to carers and families was particularly well received and resulted in lengthy doorstep meetings with Carers and Cared for. The conversations highlighted how much involvement with BIG means to our families and how eager they are to "get back to normal" after the restrictions are lifted.
D & J are longstanding members of Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group. J has an Acquired Brain Injury sustained when she was a young woman. She has a weakness on one side and struggles with long periods of walking/standing. She also tires very easily. D was for many years a committee member of BIG. D is now in his 70's and has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Despite this he is still J's main carer although they now share caring responsibilities for each other. They are both very appreciative of the support of group members and regularly attend group activities. In periods where D has been unable to drive transport has been arranged to allow them to remain involved. They particularly enjoy our theatre trips and bowling events and do not feel that they would be able to continue enjoying these without our support