A story by Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health
Our Creative Breaks Project helped carers access respite and offer them tools and techniques to cope better with the day to day stressors of their role through 2 Mindfulness Courses delivered by our Family Support Service.
We organised 9 hours of respite group befriending each month for 20 older people who are either carers or cared for through our older people’s befriending service called Third Age Befriending Service.
Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health supports adults with poor mental health and their families.
What Creative Breaks did
Our Family Support Service delivered 2 mindfulness courses each of 8 weekly 2 hour sessions in our own Centre, one member of staff and one sessional worker attended all 16 sessions. The facilitators were experienced trainers/counsellors and were well versed in delivering mindfulness training courses. Each course was advertised locally, within the local carers centres, through our web site and to our existing carers.
The worker met each participant before the course commenced to explain the course and to ascertain if they were willing to participate and if it met their needs. As mindfulness was a relatively new training concept for all participants it was important to outline the structure and content to offer people a better understanding of what the course would entail and the potential benefits from attending.
Comfort breaks also set the scene for people to relax and get to know each other in a less formal learning setting and build trust, understanding and respect. These breaks were essential and well used as carers feedback testified, chatting, getting to know each other, establishing a supportive and relaxed learning environment. Facilitators were aware of these processes and made sure carers were not isolated and able to join in the informal discussions and chat.
Older people's befriending service (TAB) our new activity worker organised 21 group activities (16 older people regularly attended 13 sessions of the "Stepping On" group and 11 older people attended 8 organised theatre outings) in total 22 older people (16 cared for people, 4 carers and 2 older carers) took part in at least one group activity.
We reached out to older people through a wide range of connections including The Stroke Association, Headway and our existing service users. Both groups identified outings to suit their interests which range from trips bird watching to going to the Panto and meeting for lunch to enjoying a Broadway musical.
I mention the trainer as I do think for me that was a significant element. Louise has a manner of delivery that certainly enhances the experience and made the whole process very accessible, and also (always a plus) very enjoyable. I also think the course being held in a room with a relaxing ambience was a big plus, and thanks to Neil for his compassionate support as always.
I am already enjoying the difference in my approach to the little difficulties that crop up in everyday life. For people experiencing trauma & more serious difficulties I believe it would be invaluable. I would highly recommend this course.
I found that my attitude had changed and I could cope with my anxiety once the exercises and sessions for each week were completed. I find it also reduced my stress levels so much so that I nodded off during our meditation session. I realise this is a tool which I can use when I feel low, which I do, sometimes only for 3/4 minutes but I find it helps to take me out of the dark place I find myself in. I also find that this meditation helps me to relax especially when I have difficulty sleeping, starting at my toes as we did in the class and working my entire body enhances my sleep pattern.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and now I have the ability to recognise my inner feelings some of the time and ease the situation through mindfulness meditation.
As someone who is suffering from depression and taking medication "Mindfulness" has given me a new tool to cope with life. I have embraced the whole concept opening my mind to alternatives of thought.
Have there been changes in your attitude since starting the course? - my way of thinking has changed I feel more positive. Previously negative thoughts would take over my mind and would remain with me all day. Of course this would affect my attitude to myself in particular being critical of everything I do. Now before I even get of bed I practice the 3 minute breathing space. This stops any negative thoughts I have in their tracks.
Have there been changes in your behaviour since starting the course? - I feel happier with myself. I don't get so stressed. I feel in control of my thoughts. Practising the Mindfulness tools every day has become part of my daily routine. It's become as easy as brushing my teeth. In fact for the few minutes it takes to brush my teeth I can be doing this mindfully without realising it. I'm 66 years old and so wish I had known about Mindfulness during my working life.
What did you find most helpful about coming on the course? - being part of a group from various backgrounds ages etc helped being relaxed and open with any thoughts and discussions. Amazingly the course was free and hopefully FDAMH will continue to be funded enabling them to provide this course to people like myself who were at such a low point in their lives.
What did you find least helpful? - I'm more than happy to say I have no negative comments. There were laughter and tears during our Mindful Experience but Louise and Neil were everything you could hope for, professional, kind and caring. I felt they had become true friends by the time the course ended.
Any other comments/suggestions? - when I started the course I really didn't know what to expect however after the 2nd week I knew this was the way for me. I have always had a problem sleeping. Sometimes I would be lucky if I managed about 3 hours per night. Mindfulness has banished this problem for good. All I need to do is my 3 minute breathing space and next thing I know the alarm has went off in the morning. By the 3rd week I was so enthusiastic I encouraged my husband to join me. I would chat about our weekly session and then we would both practice the breathing techniques.
My husband plays squash and now uses Mindfulness before and during his games. As he drives to his match he is concentrating only on his journey this helps to clear his mind then he does his 3 minute breathing space before going on court. During the match he practices moment to moment awareness. The first time he did this he managed to achieve a win over an opponent he had never beaten before. A result as they say!
What started as a course to help me is now something we have embraced as a couple. I mentioned the course to my GP and of course once I start talking about it I find it hard to stop! He has mentioned it me on my last 2 appointments with him asking how I found out about the course where it's held etc. I think I've just talked my GP into following the Mindful Way.
I can’t begin to tell you what your project has done. It’s great, really great, helping her get used to using the buses and introduced her to lots of groups and café’s. Now she has something on every day. She has new friends that she met through the Stepping On Group and her befriender gave her the confidence to go along to a knitting group locally and she’s made friends there.
She wouldn’t talk to people before. She was too shy, but working with the great befrienders she’s had, taught her to talk and chat, so that when she got the confidence to go to the knitting group, she could talk to the women there. She couldn’t do that before. She has new friends, she never had that before.
The change in her confidence is the most noticeable. Like yesterday for example, we went on a Seagull Trust boat trip, before I couldn’t have left her side and she wouldn’t have spoken to a soul other than me. This time I went up to the front of the boat and she stayed at the back and had a chat with some other people there. It meant I could enjoy a bit of trying to sail the boat, whilst she was quite happy chatting to strangers!! That just wouldn’t have happened before. It meant that we could both enjoy the trip much more than before.
As for me, I have more time to myself. I was really restricted before as Denise couldn’t do anything by herself. Now I can get out, knowing she’s happy.
I’m much happier in myself and going before her isn’t so much of a worry, as I know she’s able to do things for herself. I know she’s able. I do think it has improved my life too, greatly so.
Some other feedback - I think the befriending project has been one of the best ways of helping my mums’ recovery, she is benefiting from it a lot more than I thought she would. I’m so grateful my mum was given this opportunity and hope many other people can benefit from it. Daughter of cared for person
What Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health has learnedTraining for carers, both courses had a higher than expected drop out rate and attribute this in the main to Mindfulness being viewed as "airy fairy" and that "free" courses are at times not valued as highly if participants had to self fund. On a more positive note we have been very impressed with the Mindfulness "model" having witnessed some stunning changes and have deepened our knowledge and practice of this method of training.
Mindfulness courses can be more powerful than many "therapeutic" intervention as it invites people to explore their own self awareness with compassion and non judgementally which our society is perhaps not re- noun for. At the start of the course the worker would phone participants to see how they were and offer encouragement and help motivation strengthened connections and aided consistency.
Older People's Group Activities, having a new Activity Worker has given us the capacity to organise far more group opportunities to suit the different interests of older carers and cared for people. One of the challenges has been that as our group activities especially the stepping on group become more popular the ability of staff and volunteers to fully engage with participants becomes more difficult. Therefore as we mentioned in our mid term break we are going to keep the number of participants in this group small to enable groups members to fully engage with each other. This is made more easy by having a dedicated worker who can facilitate more than one group at the same time to meet demand.
We have attracted more carers by promoting the Carer Support Service as a Family Support Service. This has helped us reach out and support other family members affected by another family poor mental health. Some have been reluctant to ask for help, some did not where to go to and some were not aware what support is available. By relaunching this carer support as a family support we have been able to break down some of these barriers.