Connecting to Wellbeing
A story by Carers of West Lothian
Our project supported adult, young adult and young carers to manage their wellbeing by providing breaks from caring, opportunity to meet other carers and develop self-management skills.
Our project included two wellbeing weekends and an intergenerational wellbeing day in Fife.
What Connecting to Wellbeing did
Our project took place between April and August 22. Activities included relaxation, pet therapy, storytelling, physical exercises as well as the chance to relax with other carers. All carers from age 8 years upwards were invited to participate. Priority was given to carers most in need or who had not been able to engage in this type of support before. We worked with volunteers, staff at the venue and activity providers to ensure the project was a success. Activities delivered were chosen by the carers who attended the breaks.
Our project was successful in addressing all three Creative Breaks outcomes including: Carers will have more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role. Carers will feel better supported to sustain their caring role. Carers and the people they care for will have improved wellbeing.
All our breaks were well evaluated, showing a positive impact on the carer's wellbeing.
Carers reported the benefits of having a break from caring and the difference it made to sustaining their caring role. Here are some quotes: "I desperately needed this weekend – to the point that I was crying when I was told I was invited. It has been amazing." "Invaluable I believe you have saved my soul."
As well as the successes of the breaks, there has been lasting benefits from this. Carers have continued to engage in support and positive relationships formed have continued to grow - "Sad to be going home, arrives as a stranger, going home as a friend – thank you!!"
Thankfully, we were at a point with covid restrictions which meant we were able to deliver the programme planned. Based on evaluation, there wasn't anything that didn't go to plan.
What Carers of West Lothian has learned
Type of support offered - we learned the benefits of having a choice between a weekend break or daybreak to give carers flexibility. Carers attending our intergenerational day told us that they would not be able to engage in an overnight break due to their caring responsibilities but having the day option gave them a chance to benefit from a short break.
Planned breaks for carers - Having choice in the types of short breaks is important. Some carers like the flexibility of short breaks they can plan while others reported the benefits of a break like this. They could just turn up and not have to think about the planning. That is what they found appealing and a big part of success.
Targeting new or most in need - ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from this type of support. Making sure it is well advertised to reach carers who are not always digitally connected or in regular contact.
How Carers of West Lothian has benefitted from the funding
The Creative Breaks funding allowed us to widen our respite opportunities for carers by complementing existing short break and Respitality options. This project gave us scope to offer something new and exciting for carers of all ages.
Carers will report that they have been able to enjoy life outside of their caring role by attending our wellbeing breaks. We will capture before and after evaluation in line with our outcomes which are based on the National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes.
This outcome was achieved well for everyone. Carers completed evaluations which looked at their wellbeing before and after the break. The evaluations evidenced the impact this support had had with all carers reporting an improvement in their health, emotional wellbeing, life balance and feeling valued. Carers reported having time away benefited the person they care for as they enjoyed the change. For many carers, the person they cared for saw an improvement in their carer's emotional wellbeing on return from the break which please them and strengthened relationships.
Carer attended our adult wellbeing weekend. They care for an adult child with a life limiting condition. They are the main carer and have had no breaks from caring. They have also been limited in accessing support due to their caring role. Before attending the weekend, the carer was exhausted and described themselves as "being on their knees". It had been difficult for the carer to ask family for help, but they did so they were able to attend. After an initial difficult start to the due to circumstances at home, the carer managed to relax and embrace the weekend. They took part many of the activities on offer and spent time chatting to other carers. Throughout the weekend, they were very vocal about the positive impact the weekend was having on them. They said " I arrived oppressed and exhausted in life and have managed to find my light and inner child. I go home stronger and happier. I arrived a wee cat, go home a lion." Carer also said that their cared for person had noticed a difference in them after the break. They said “who is this who came back. You are like a different person, and you have more energy". Following the break, the carer has been engaging in other peer supports on offer and said that they have both benefited from time away from each other and realised the importance of this to maintain their own wellbeing. The break showed them that they can have time apart without things falling apart. Taking time out is ok.
After having a break, carers will report that they feel rested and better equipped in their caring role. We will capture before and after evaluation in line with our outcomes which are based on the National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes. We will gather quotes and photos during the project.
This outcome was achieved well for everyone. Carers completed evaluations which looked at their wellbeing before and after the break. The evaluations evidenced the impact support has had, identifying particular outcomes and areas of support that have benefited the carer. Carers reported an improvement in their health, emotional wellbeing, life balance and feeling valued.
This is a family case study including mum, dad and two children. One of the parent carers attended our adult weekend and one of the children came along to our young adult carer weekend. Both have never had a break before and have been dealing with significant caring responsibilities. The parent carer was very nervous about leaving the family and taking time for themselves but was encouraged by their family to take this time. On arrival, they were shy and nervous but throughout the weekend, gained confidence and by the end, didn't want to leave. They said "I am going to find myself again & this weekend has kick started it. I was just mum, now I feel like me." During covid, this carer had lost confidence and contact with support, but this break has given them the confidence to reengage, and they are now accessing groups and events to maintain their improved wellbeing. The young adult attended our young adult carer break. This was their first time being away without their family. They had also lost confidence to engage and mix with peers, so the break was a great opportunity to reconnect while having time out from the pressures of home. Their evaluation highlighted an improvement in their emotional wellbeing, their life balance and feeling valued. They said "I really loved meeting and getting closer to the other Young Adult Carers. I also loved the quizzes, games and alpacas. Everyone was so nice to me, and I love all the friends I have made." This young adult carer is continuing to engage with eh group by attending a monthly peer support group as well as being part of a supportive WhatsApp group.
Following attendance at one of our events, carers, and the person they care for will report improved wellbeing. We will capture before and after evaluation in line with our outcomes which are based on the National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes. We will gather quotes and photos during the project.
Carers reported improved emotional wellbeing and feeling more resilient and better able to cope with their caring role on their return home.
Carer who cares for their partner with a long-term health condition attended our wellbeing weekend. This was their first time doing anything like this and said they really needed the break. Life at home can be very demanding meaning breaks are few and far between. This carer said, "It’s like a pressure cooker. Being here has been like lifting the lid and releasing the pressure. I feel better prepared to cope with the pressures of home life and I have been emotionally, physically and spiritually refreshed". The Carer is also now engaging in other peer support groups following this break which is helping to sustain their improved wellbeing.
Additional project outcome
Carers will feel connected and part of a community. 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.
Case studies 1 to 3 above are a good example of how carers attending these breaks have developed positive relationships and long-term support that lasts beyond this project. The breaks gave carers the confidence to engage in other ways and access support from peers they would not otherwise have had. Carers attending our breaks have remained in contact through our groups but also independently by exchanging contact details. One carer who attended our wellbeing day was new to our organisation and had never been to any group support. They had reported really enjoying the day, speaking to other carers and taking time for themselves which they always felt guilty doing. Since coming along to this event, the carer has regularly attended our weekly coffee morning and said "I no longer feel guilty about making time for me. I know it's important."