Covid Recovery & Wellbeing Project for Carers 50+
A story by Glasgow East End Community Carers
Our project provided a variety of creative solutions for carers as they tried to recover from the burden imposed by the restrictions during the pandemic. Our breaks aimed at improving their wellbeing and were age appropriate activities for each group. The project allowed social interaction and peer support.
What Covid Recovery & Wellbeing Project for Carers 50+ did
This year we had the additional challenge of providing activities while we relocated to new premises. The upheaval meant that we had to hire some local church halls and change the schedule to accommodate activities away from the site while remedial work was undertaken. We maintained the weekly carers' café. The social events especially the Christmas party were a great success – you could see the joy on the faces of carers simply being able to interact with one another after a couple of years of restrictions.
We provided a spa day for carers at a local hotel where each carer had the opportunity to choose a treatment and enjoy a light lunch. Our arts and crafts classes saw quilling among other activities been run for the first time at the request of the carers. The group also took the opportunity to have an outing to St Margaret’s House in Edinburgh which was displaying work created by carers. This was very well received by all who attended and we followed that up with a visit to works by Banksy in Glasgow.
We allotment continues to be a great source of physical activity with the raised beds being used to a mixture of flowers and vegetables. With a lack of local allotment spaces, we need to maintain this area and the carers take a great pride in keeping the plot in good standing. Carers participated in other physical activities such as the walking group and the Cycle for life course which supplied the bicycles as well as safety equipment to allow the carers to enjoy getting back on the bike which they could otherwise not afford.
As part of the wellbeing program, we ran a Vegetarian for Life cookery class which gave carers the opportunity to learn how to make health and nutritious meals that were also affordable.
Our peer support groups continue to meet and support one another and members have established some strong friendship bonds. We also have the WhatsApp chat groups which offer support and advice which have to be monitored by staff. Our project was aimed specifically at carers aged 50+a group we knew required support. Through consultation with carers we designed the timetable of events that they stated were most beneficial.
What Glasgow East End Community Carers has learned
During the project we really focused on budgetary control. With the rising in inflation constant throughout the project we had to keep a close eye on what we were spending on a weekly basis to ensure that we were able to complete the budget. It became clear early on, that we would have an overspend on what we had anticipated to spend and we managed to obtain additional funding from our Homecare social enterprise.
We also moved premises during the grant period and this was one of the reasons for the overspend as we had to hire alternative accommodation. So staff had to be more aware, when planning the activities that they would be required to allow time to negotiate and book venues in advance. Some local community organisations donated their spaces free of charge
How Glasgow East End Community Carers has benefitted from the funding
The Creative Breaks funding has allowed us to support the carers in our community and since we have moved to our new premises we have been able to increase the capacity of our service. We have also been able to build links with other local community groups some of which assisted us with alternative accommodation while our new facility was being refurbished. Our reputation has been strengthen and we have received an increase in referrals - mainly by work of mouth from carers we engage with and these organisations who have been impressed by what we as an organisation are trying to deliver.
Our Carers Aged 50+ will be re-connected with the community and have enjoyed time away from their caring role participating in their chosen activities having support from a volunteer or paid befriender
This outcome was fully achieved. Having come through a period of restrictions due to the pandemic we found that a few carers had become isolated and had suffered a loss of confidence when it came to venturing out. Some were scared to bringing the virus back to their loved ones at home. Others were restricted due to the lack of availability of a social care package to free them from their caring role. Through peer support especially through the WhatsApp chats and welfare calls from staff they were encouraged to re-engage, slowly at first but we could see the confidence return and gradually by way of courses that we would run via the Zoom platform they felt confidence to take the next step and participate in activities away from their caring role.
Beatrice, who is originally from Rwanda, has been involved with the Carers Hub since 2016. She is a single parent with 2 children who both have additional support needs. Her daughter, Caroline who is 17, has Global Development Delay, Autism, Pica, Learning Difficulties and is non-verbal. She is very overweight and doubly incontinent, and her behaviour can be very challenging, so Beatrice is unable to take her out unless she has someone there for support. Caroline has an individual budget, but since Covid, they have not been able to find any agencies willing to take on as a client due, in part, to the complexity of her needs and the lack of care workers. As a result, Beatrice has had no service for her for the last 18 months and this, in effect, means that once Caroline returns home from school at lunchtime, Beatrice is trapped in the house unless her ex-husband is able to look after her, and he works full-time. She has no family support as her family have had to flee persecution and are scattered all over the world. Her son, Daniel who is 12, also has autism and struggles with communication and social interaction. He is very obsessive about certain topics and attached to his routine and can become difficult if Beatrice has to change it for any reason. He is an intelligent and funny boy, but according to his mum, talks incessantly and finds it difficult to deviate from his own agenda. He requires a lot of support to help him focus and engage at school and understand emotions and interact with his peers. Over the last 7 years, Beatrice has accessed many of the services that the Hub offers including benefits advice, grants, peer support in the form of the autism support group, health and wellbeing events such as massage, spa days and she even learned to cycle with Bike for Good! Since Covid, Beatrice’s caring role has intensified, and she has been under increasing strain. She is a warm, intelligent and sociable person and has been unable to get out to mix with other adults due to the difficulties with Caroline’s service. We am in regular phone contact with her, and last year invited her to join our online photography class through Create Arts. This course gives carers the opportunity to develop their creativity, learn new skills and also interact with other carers. Beatrice was able to participate fully because the course took place in the morning before Caroline came home. We ran the course in collaboration with Care for Carers in Edinburgh, and it was so successful that people were keen to do something else. We spoke to Create Arts and organised another 6-week course in the Spring, this time centred around crafting, and this also evaluated very well. After it ended, we continued to work with Care for Carers who were organising an exhibition of carers’ work in a local art venue and wanted to include some of the photographs from the course, including several from Beatrice. We decided to take some of the carers who participated in the courses through for the exhibition and arranged to have lunch in Edinburgh to make a day of it. Beatrice managed to arrange for her ex-husband to look after the children, and she had a fabulous day, especially seeing her photographs on display. Given the success of the outing, we then arranged for both sets of carers to go the Banksy exhibition in Glasgow and then for a lunch in a local Italian restaurant. Again, Beatrice was able to persuade her ex-husband to take the children and she was able to come to the exhibition, which she loved, and then go onto the lunch. Afterwards, she thanked me for inviting her and said, ‘you bring joy into my life’. Since then, we have been in regular contact, and we recently applied for a grant for her to treat herself to a day out for her birthday. She wanted to have a massage and a facial, get her hair and nails done and have a nice lunch, so we applied to Time to Live and managed to get £300 for her to pay for all her treatments. Our autism support group runs in the morning, so Beatrice will be able to come along and meet with other carers who are dealing with similar issues to her own, and understand the worry, frustration and isolation that is part of being a parent carer.
Our Carers Aged 50+ will have had a chance to recharge their batteries having had a break from their caring role and benefit from the support they received.-Information and advice, help through the appropriate statutory and third sector pathways, Opportunities and access to counselling, training etc
This outcome was achieved 100%. Having come through the worst of the pandemic, carers were often both physically and mentally drained due to the amount of additional time they had spent in their caring role without a break. There situation at home looking after their cared-for became more difficult due to the pressures being felt by the cared-for who was also confined to the home environment. As an organisation we not only offer breaks away from the caring role but look to assist the family in any way we can. This can be by advocating on their behalf, assisting with paperwork, accessing grants, benefits etc. We believe that the breaks offered to carers will be more beneficial if we can also assist in relieving some of the other stresses that they are dealing with. Peer support groups are a great asset as often the others in the group have experienced similar situations and by discussing the issues and how others coped can give the carer the feeling that they are not alone,
Mary and James initially came to the Carers Hub in 2018, on the recommendation of a friend. They are both carers for their adult son, Michael, who has chronic mental health issues. Despite having seen a number of medical professionals including GP’s, psychiatrists and psychologists, he has never had a proper diagnosis and doesn’t receive any support. Michael left school at 18 and failed to engage with any type of further education or employment and gradually became more withdrawn and reluctant to engage with the outside world. He developed a lot of routines and behaviours which substantially restrict his life and have an enormous impact on his parents. He is convinced that he does not have mental health problems and that his condition is caused by external forces such as radiation or toxins. According to him, he can only eat at specified times and in complete silence and is so intolerant of noise his parents have to sleep downstairs on the floor because he cannot bear the noise of them next door. The noise of the boiler affects him so badly that they are unable to put the central heating on, even during the winter. He has become very neglectful of his personal hygiene and appearance, refusing to shower or cut his hair and wearing clothes until they are literally in rags. His behaviour had become so demanding and controlling that his parents were living in fear of upsetting him and provoking a ‘meltdown’ which could be violent and aggressive. In effect, they were both living like prisoners in their own home, unable to have friends over, decorate the house, sleep in their own bedroom or even talk on the phone. Both Mary and James were working during the day but became regular attenders at the evening support group, where they soon made friends with other carers. Mary, in particular, seemed to really benefit from being able to talk honestly about Michael’s condition and the impact it was having on them. When the Parents of Adults with Additional Needs group started (PAWS for short) she would come straight from work and rarely missed a session. She was often upset and tearful, but the other members of the group were incredibly supportive of her, and she obviously found a lot of comfort in knowing that she was not alone. She and James also came along to social events such as a barge trip down the Forth and Clyde canal, a trip to Balloch, and the Xmas lunch. Over the last 2 years, Michael’s condition has continued to deteriorate, and we wrote to her GP expressing our concern about the amount of stress she was under and the effect it was having on her mental health. We explained the complex background and the ways in which the family had been failed by both medical professionals and Social Work. The GP was very sympathetic and referred her to Glasgow Association for Mental Health for complementary therapies. While this did help deal with her stress, it didn’t address the source of the problem which was Michael’s mental health issues and lack of diagnosis which precluded him from accessing the treatment and services that he needed. Subsequently we contacted the Mental Health Development Manager at the Carers Trust who reached out to a contact with the Mental Health Commission who was horrified at Michael’s story. She encouraged Mary to go back to her GP and ask for a new referral to mental health services and also request an autism assessment for Michael. At this time, we felt it was vital that she applied for Guardianship for Michael, so we made a referral to Govan Law Centre. As with everything, the Autism assessment proved problematic, and the team were initially reluctant to deal with Andrew as he was unable to speak with them on the phone. we spoke with them on his behalf and persuaded them to send the assessment forms to both Mary and Michael. We supported her to complete the form, which was extremely long and detailed. She decided to let Michael complete his own as she felt it was important that they were able to see the difficulties he had expressing himself. After several visits to the house, the team brought along a psychiatrist to help determine if Andrew had autism spectrum disorder or a mental health condition. They struggled to decide because of the complexity of his condition, but eventually decided that he did not have autism and referred him back to the mental health team at Auchinlea. They waited 6 weeks for someone to come out to see him, and the visit went so badly that Michael’s behaviours became more acute; he would wander around the house talking to himself and continually ruminating over the conversation he had with the psychiatrist. His meltdowns became more frequent and aggressive, and Mary described how he would go into his room and scream and destroy items of furniture. Throughout all of this, we have been in constant contact and she and James have continued to attend the support group. The situation reached crisis point a couple of weeks ago when Michael disappeared one morning and was found down at the local river. He was delusional and thought that there was someone there with him telling him to hurt himself and his family. Rosemary contacted the NHS crisis team, and he was admitted to hospital where he remains now. Even though he wants to come home, Mary has decided that she can no longer have Michael back in the house for his sake and theirs. She believes that he would stop taking his medication and gradually revert to his old behaviour. Since he has been in hospital, she and James have been able to move back into their bedroom, decorate the house and spend time with their daughter in Dundee. She has discussed this matter extensively with the group, and a couple of other parents have been able to share their experiences of moving their adult children on to supported accommodation. We have been able to give her advice on finding a suitable place and applying for a personal budget for him, and also help her see that this would be the best outcome for all of them, especially Michael. James isn’t coping very well with Michael being in hospital, so Mary says that the group is the place that she comes to discuss her fears and emotions and hopes for the future. She says that without their support, and the support of GEECC she would not have the knowledge or the confidence to deal with what is happening, and that she would be ‘lost without us’. This is very complex situation and there is a long way to go before the family finds some sort of resolution, but they know that the Carers Hub and their friends in the support group will be there to help them deal with whatever comes along.
Our Carers Aged 50+ will feel less isolated and feel more confident
The outcome has been fully met. Carers often feel they have nowhere to turn and just do their duty looking after a loved one. This is the organisation's "why" - we are here to improve the lives of carers and we can only do this if we actively listen to the carer as they often do not know what help is available and what support they are entitled to. Carers need a break from their role to give them the capacity to extend the role itself. We offered a variety of activities which allow the carer to escape the role either mentally by concentrating on a favourite pastime or physically by participating in an event away from the home. Some carers cannot enjoy a break without knowing their loved one is safe and happy and this can only be achieved by including them in the activity, which we will accommodate. After Covid mental health wellbeing of the whole family unit has been one topic that we have tried to address through both physical and leisure activities as well as practical support.
Donna originally contacted during the Hub to find out how she accessed her Covid vaccine. At that time, she was caring for both her mum and dad, who are in their eighties and have various health conditions. Her mum is partially sighted, and her dad has Epilepsy and mobility issues. They are divorced and live separately which made her caring role more complicated and she was trying to split her time between them. We had a long conversation about her situation, and it turned out that there were several issues that had not been dealt with. Neither of her parents was in receipt of Attendance Allowance, so we made applications online for both and they were both successful. Donna had given up work to look after them and her only income was an occupational pension, so she qualified for Carers Allowance. We also applied for a blue badge for her mum and dad which meant that it was much easier for Donna to take them shopping or to medical appointments. Donna is an only child, and although she has a husband, he was also a carer for her mum so she didn’t like to burden him with her own problems, She started to come along to the Carers Café where she got the opportunity to meet other carers, have a bit of lunch and also have a laugh. The café is open to the person you look after so her mum, Myra started to come along occasionally and really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and the chat. Donna has to split her time between her husband, her dad and her mum, so Myra is often on her own and had become a bit isolated since Covid but coming to the café boosted her confidence and helped her overcome some of her anxiety about mixing with people. They also came along to the summer barbecue and the Xmas lunch and discovered that their neighbours were also members of the Hub! Donna is very talented at arts and crafts and offered to do a quilling class for the Hub, to thank us for our support, and this was really popular with other carers. She was hoping to lead something else, but unfortunately, during the summer, her husband Charlie was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. There is no cure and no real treatment, so they were both absolutely devastated by the news. It was easier for her to talk on the phone initially, so we arranged regular phone calls to offer her support and discuss her feelings. She has no other family and is terrified about losing Charlie and how she will cope. So we offered to source a counsellor for her and pay for 6 sessions. If she felt it was helping, we would then apply for a grant to allow her to continue. We were lucky enough to find someone local for her who was experienced in person centred counselling, and they have a great relationship. At the end of her 6 sessions, she decided she would benefit from more, so we applied to the Time to Live fund who awarded her £300 which will pay for another 6. We also invited her to join our online arts group through Create Arts, and she attended both the photography and the crafting. Unfortunately, she was unable to go to the exhibition in Edinburgh but many of her photographs were displayed, and we have arranged to have the framed prints returned to her so that she can hang them on her wall. We were delighted that she was able to come along to the Banksy exhibition and the lunch and meet many of the other carers who had participated in the courses, including several from Edinburgh. We applied for Attendance Allowance for Charlie, and also a Blue Badge for him and the extra money is allowing them to pay for a private dietician who has seemingly changed his diet completely and helped him gain weight and increase his energy levels, so they are both delighted. They don’t know what the future holds, but they know that they are not alone as we will support them no matter what happens and, if the worst happens, we will continue to support Donna until she feels she is able to cope without us.