A story by The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service
Our project enabled carers to have regular breaks at theatre performances where they could socialise, whilst our staff team hosted four separate music and dance events for their loved ones all of whom had a dementia diagnosis.
All events took place within venues in East Renfrewshire.
What Drama Days did
Short break activities delivered for carers, three theatre performances at Eastwood Theatre, Giffnock. Dial ‘M’ for Murder on 26.01.19, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on 08.06.19 and The Importance of Being Earnest on 15.09.19. Carers also earlier attended a Carers’ Catch-Up Lunch event at The Old Plane Tree Inn, Glasgow, on 26.04.19, as part of the programme.
Short break activities delivered for those with a dementia diagnosis, Ukelele Band and dance at Newton Mearns Parish Church, 26.01.19, Calamity Jane Theme Day at Crookfur Estate, 08.06.19, and our Tea-Dance Finale at Crookfur Estate. Separate Catch-Up Lunch event, at The Capelrig, Newton Mearns on April 26.
The original plan was for carers to attend “A Play a Pie and a Pint” theatre performances at The Oran Mor theatre, Glasgow in October 2018, December 2018, April 2019 and August 2019. The grant award, however, was not made until October 2018, by which time The Oran Mor tickets for the first two shows had sold out. This meant some delay to the project starting and alternative venues being found. The local Eastwood Theatre was believed to be most suitable (see successes, below). Two lunch events were also held to allow people to socialise, prior to the final two events.
Who participated and how were they identified: Carers and People that we support with a dementia diagnosis. Personal consultations and on need. Other work to make project a success: Purchased musical instruments to enhance music and dance events.
Project successes, carers said that it was great to meet-up and chat with others who care for relatives with dementia. The unexpected change of theatre venue also proved positive and popular as it was more local and accessible. We also introduced live music and drama performances at our events for cared for people (ukelele band and Doris Day act). These proved to be very interactive and provided additional stimulation for the people whom we support.
What The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has learned
Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities: We learned how projects really can and do evolve as they go on and you have to be ready to quickly adapt to such changes or unexpected challenges. For example, early in the project, we had to source an alternative venue for our first theatre event as the tickets for the first venue had already sold-out before the grant was awarded. The staff team quickly identified another excellent venue and this proved to be a huge hit with carers, in terms of accessibility, convenience and parking.
This opportunity to move to a more local venue also negated the need for transport hire, ensuring that the project as a whole would come in well within budget. While the original project intended hiring a venue for the events for cared for people, our organisation later became aware of a bigger, more cost-effective venue which, again, worked-out to the overall benefit of the project.
Project planning, our second event for carers and cared for people was identified as being a "Catch-up Lunch". This gave carers the chance to meet up again with other carers that they had met at the first event. Feedback on this event was really positive. If we were running a similar project in the future, however, the general feeling was that the lunch could become the first event of any future programme. Essentially this would provide a fantastic opportunity for carers to be introduced to each other right at the start of the programme within a relaxing, social setting.
Developing new short breaks activities, we have already incorporated short break activities suggested by carers into our day-to-day service. Within our live project monitoring and evaluation tool, a number of carers indicated that a bus-trip to the seaside would be a great option for the future. These suggestions were immediately taken on board by our staff team and the wheels were put in motion to make this bus-trip happen. A trip to Largs, in Ayrshire, took place on Friday, October 18. A total of 12 people went along to enjoy a fish tea by the sea.
Such was the success of this trip, a further bus excursion to Largs has been arranged on Thursday, December 12, 2019. This will be a Christmas tea-dance event for 25 people at a coastal hotel. Our successful Catch-Up Lunch Creative Breaks events have also led to our service organising a pre-Christmas lunch for 40 people on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.
While listening to and consulting with carers and cared-for people is a cornerstone of our regular service, feedback from our Creative Breaks programme was hugely instrumental in these additional breaks being organised.
How The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has benefitted from the funding
As our Creative Breaks project took place, our organisation was made aware of another venue (Crookfur Estate) which had a hall space which seemed perfect for our music and dance events for cared-for people. We managed to host these events at this venue and, as a result, will be able to continue to do so within our day-to-day service. Hosting future events here will mean that we can expand our service into this new area. We will also be able to work together with our new hosts and this will, hopefully, lead to the forging of a new partnership, as we move forward as a service.
The theatre trips will directly provide regular breaks and give opportunities to share experiences with other carers. If such an informal peer-support network develops this could provide further spin-off social events, enabling more opportunities to step away from their caring role and enjoy life.
Our project enabled carers of loved ones with dementia to meet up as planned in enjoyable, social settings. As the programme progressed, we also received positive feedback on the aspect of having opportunities to meet up with other carers whilst attending these events. Comments we received from carers included: "My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the screening of 'The Importance of Being Earnest' at Eastwood Theatre." "I enjoyed meeting other carers ." "A great success with everyone having something to say." "Thoroughly enjoyed the meal with the group. Nice to have a break, knowing my gran was having a nice time. And being able to relate to and share stories with people in a similar situation to me. Think it was a great idea." "Excellent company." "I got to meet new carers and a few that I had met at the last event" "A very pleasant day out." "I thoroughly enjoyed it - very good!"
*Carers name has been changed* Bryan is a carer for his mother, who has a diagnosis of dementia. He lives with his mum and dad and they were all keen to take part in our Creative Breaks, Drama Days project. Facing the day-to-day challenges caring for a loved one with dementia can bring, Bryan spoke about how difficult things could be and how stress could build up for both of them in their shared caring role. On getting involved with our Creative Breaks project, Bryan said that all three of them as a family had thoroughly enjoyed all of the events and that “the benefits were massive.” He said that before the programme, he and his dad never really went out together as his mum could not be left on her own. The Creative Breaks programme saw father and son attend our theatre events together while his mum went along to our music and dance events. Bryan said that the trips to the theatre were “superb” and added: “What you put on was perfect.”
Ideally, carers will have enjoyed our events over the year and will feel that these have helped them to feel revived at regular intervals throughout the year, enabling them to continue their caring responsibilities. It is also hoped that friendships form, providing additional informal support.
Giving carers time to step away from their caring role and feel better supported, even for just a short time to enjoy themselves and recharge their batteries, was a key, desired outcome of our original application. These regular, quarterly "breathing spaces" were what we are aiming for as a service. Feedback we received appeared to evidence that the project had provided a feeling of being better supported both formally and informally. Comments we received from carers included: "I enjoyed the play. This gave me time to relax and knowing that (my husband) was having a day with people he knew and being looked after. Very enjoyable and stress-free for us both." "It was great to have something like this to take the mind away from things for a couple of hours." "I had not been to the theatre for some years so it was a particular treat, especially knowing that my wife, who I care for, was being looked after." "So good to hear how other people coped. Sharing stories was very good."
*Carers name has been changed* Bryan (See outcome 2 for his circumstances) said that the support that he and his dad had received throughout the project had left them feeling “energised”. He said that the live Calamity Jane show within the Creative Breaks programme would live long in their memories, in particular, as he saw his mum so happy, up singing along to the Doris Day songs. Bryan also said that meeting other carers of loved ones with dementia had been of great benefit too and that having the chance to talk and share their feelings together had been “priceless”. Bryan added: “It showed you that people really cared and it took the pressure off a bit.” This informal support amongst carers participating in the project was what we, as a service, hoped would develop. Bryan concluded that the project had “benefited all three of us.” He added: “It was good to get the breaks knowing that mum was being looked after too.”