A story by Western Isles Community Care Forum
Eolas was set up as a social group for informal carers in the Western Isles, to come together over afternoon tea or morning coffee, in a relaxed setting.
We were able to pay for alternative care to allow all carers access to this group.
What Eolas did
Eolas (Gaelic for ’to become familiar with’) provided a relaxed setting for carers to come together socially. Talking and sharing experiences helped carers better cope with aspects of their caring role as well as affording them a time to relax and unwind away from their responsibilities, which is of mutual benefit.
This service is personalised to suit carers different locations at different times. Bi-monthly, we arranged for afternoon tea/morning coffee to be provided in 41 different locations around the Western Isles. Due to the geography of our Islands, it was necessary to hold the meetings in different venues to allow as many carers as possible to attend.
A member of staff hosted Eolas and was able to give advice on some topics or seek further information in some cases, increasing knowledge and understanding. To ensure the service was accessible to all carers, we also paid for alternative care.
We maintain a register of informal carers in the Western Isles, so had a data base to invite carers to Eolas and via another project involving home visits, we informed and encouraged carers to come along. We also advertised Eolas in local the local press, website, through our networks, posters, targeting support to other carers not known to us.
Most of our carers live in remote and rural areas, rarely having the opportunity to socialise or discuss their problems with other carers. We were delighted to see new friendships being formed through Eolas and carers meeting out with the Group. Carers travelled together to attend Eolas in other areas, thereby increasing their ‘social circle’. This added value to our project.
What Western Isles Community Care Forum has learned
Regarding project planning, advertising and reminding carers of events is crucial. We learned that events need to be spaced more to enable us to provide cover in emergencies, such as staff sickness.
Targeting carers most in need of support, need to provide alternative care, where the cared for cannot be left alone. Often these are elderly carers and are not online, so we need to contact them by telephone to remind them of events and encourage them to take a break utilising our alternative care budget. Many face social isolation, so Eolas can be a lifeline.
Reaching out to and engaging with new carers, through word of mouth is often the best advert you can get and we found carers known to us were encouraging others in their communities to join Eolas. Through meeting them in this way we were also able to offer them more support.
How Western Isles Community Care Forum has benefitted from the funding
Increased public profile, strengthened reputation with statutory services, able to spot purchase alternative care from other voluntary care organisations providing additional income for them. Identified hidden carers and are now offering them additional support, able to identify local issues/unmet needs through conversations, and strengthened our relationship with the carers we support.
88% of carers who attend will feel better supported, 85% will feel more relaxed and 73% will feel better able to cope, 50 people will have a better experience of care
89% experienced less social isolation, 94% increased their social circle, 100% acquired useful information relating to caring role, 72% reported improved health & well-being. 83% of cared for people had a better experience of care, 8 cared for individuals had replacement care, so benefited from having another person to talk to. Eolas provides a relaxed setting for carers to unwind, socialise with other carers and support each other. As one carer said, "Eolas has been a life line at times. That short time with people in the same position as me combats my loneliness. Everyone has a different story that in turn reflects us all, so their experiences help me deal with mine"
Carer A is a co-carer she looks after her husband who has physical problems and he carers for her. Being bipolar, carer A has always been suspicious of people and not a good judge of character, so consequently didn’t go out socially. For her, Eolas is ‘laid back’ with no expectation on her to do anything or speak to anybody. It boosts her confidence. This in turn reduces the level of care her husband has to provide and she is better able to cope with her caring role. In her words, “It has opened our horizons”.
60 carers will have regular opportunities to enjoy social interaction with other carers whom they would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet, making new friends and reducing their isolation.
55 individual carers attended Eolas. Total number of attendees was 193. Respite was provided on 15 separate occasions for 8 individual carers. Had we not been able to purchase the alternative care, these carers would not have been able to attend and would have remained socially isolated. New friendships have been made through Eolas.
Carer B moved to the islands from the city, to care for an elderly parent. She soon discovered she was isolated, not having any friends nearby and relatives had their own lives to live. She was unable to leave her Father who had dementia and didn’t know how long her caring role would be for, so felt quite lonely. Eolas was able to provide alternative care, enabling her to attend. There, she was able to relax, chat to other people in similar situations, get to know more people and make some new friendships. These friendships have extended beyond Eolas, providing a good support for each other. She now feels that she has a ‘normal life’.
60 carers will have improved resilience through being able to share experiences and information with other carers.
55 individual carers attended Eolas. Total number of attendees was 193. Issues relating to the booking of residential respite were discussed and Western Isles Community Care Forum staff were able to clarify information. Matters such as coping with stress associated with the caring role were brought up and we are in the process of arranging for a relevant speaker. Respite was provided on 15 separate occasions for 8 individual carers, enabling them to have a break away from their caring duties.
Carer C was unable to leave her Mother who had dementia, so consequently was confined to the house most of the time. If she did get out she was rushing about her business. Eolas was able to provide alternative care and she got the opportunity to go and socialise, meeting people she would otherwise not have met. She valued obtaining information, which took the pressure of carers having to source it for themselves. More importantly she had the opportunity to totally relax and attended Eolas on a regular basis.