A story by Western Isles Community Care Forum
Eolas is a social group for carers which enables them to meet each other in a relaxed setting such as a hotel, restaurant or café to enjoy afternoon tea or morning coffee.
What Eolas did
Carers on our register were invited to join Eolas to get time out from their caring role. We offered to pay for alternative care to enable all carers to participate.
Various hotels and restaurants were booked around the Western Isles and it afforded them an opportunity to relax, talk about caring issues or just have a light hearted chat. Meetings were hosted by two members of staff who work on another project supporting carers at home. By hosting Eolas, they were able to meet with carers in a ‘lighter’ capacity and it afforded them the opportunity to build upon their existing relationship with carers.
For the first time we introduced an activity to one group as a trial – a candle making session. It was a huge success and will be repeated, once restrictions are lifted. This session enabled them to have lots of fun, forget about their caring responsibilities for a while, learn more about candles and take home a be-spoke candle.
Once the pandemic hit the UK and we went into lockdown we could no longer offer face to face meetings. Once we realised the restrictions were going to be long term we decided to run Eolas over Zoom (as carers were informing us how much they missed Eolas). A licence was purchased to enable us to do this.
Whilst not as enjoyable as a face to face meeting (no tea and cakes!), we realised there were some advantages eg. cares who did not have transport to attend venues could participate, more frequent meetings were held in some areas and carers from various islands could come together.
What Western Isles Community Care Forum has learned
Targeting carers most in need of support, Zoom has enabled cares, who don’t have transport or are unwilling to leave the cared for person, the opportunity to meet others and receive peer support or just a period of time away from the cared for person. This will reduce isolation, enable them to make new friends, get information which will assist them in their caring role, help them to relax and therefore improve their health and wellbeing.
We have noticed that carers attending on a regular basis become concerned if one does not show up which highlights the bonds that have been formed. We are considering, for the future, running a Eolas meeting on Zoom in between face to face meetings to make it accessible to more carers. Could be useful to fall back on when there is adverse weather as well.
Reaching out to and engaging with new carers – Starting out on a caring role can be very daunting, tiring and stressful. To be able to meet up with other carers can provide reassurance, ease the pressures the carer is facing, provide time out from the caring role and enable new friendships to blossom.
Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities – the pandemic was an unexpected challenge. Moving the delivery of Eolas onto Zoom was positive as it enabled carers to stay in touch with one another and get some time away from their caring roles. Also enabled some new carers to attend.
How Western Isles Community Care Forum has benefitted from the funding
Delivery of Eolas has enabled us to expand our service for carers which will improve our chances of securing external funding. It also helps raise our profile in the local community. When we are able to meet face to face we are able to contribute to the local economy. Prior to the pandemic we had not heard of Zoom! Obtaining a Zoom license to host Eolas has opened it out to new carers. Staff are able to undertake other meetings over Zoom and explore alternative uses. It could, for example, be used in the future to gather carers thoughts and opinions when feeding into a public consultation.
Improved wellbeing for carers, 88% of carers who attend will feel better supported, 85% will feel more relaxed and 73% will feel better able to cope. Improved wellbeing for those being cared for - 46 people will have a better experience of care .
100% of carers reported an improvement in their own health and wellbeing. 79% reported the cared for received a better experience of care and 84% of the carers said they had an improved relationship with the cared for. 43 cared for people benefitted from Eolas. Carers returned to their role feeling relaxed and less stressed which benefitted the cared for person. We provided alternative care for two individuals on several occasions allowing the carers a break from their caring role and also some new social interaction for the cared for person.
Carer A is looking after two elderly parents who live 40 mins away from her. She has a young child with health issues and a part time job, so life can be very stressful and chaotic at times. Home schooling during the pandemic has added to her stress. Living in a remote and rural area Eolas is a good way to keep connected with other carers and get peer support. Carer A enjoyed attending Eolas both in person and over Zoom. She said to us: “It’s good for my mental health to speak to others in a similar role. Takes me away from my world of juggling work, caring, parenting. I made good friendships at Eolas. Good to get tips from other carers. I hope Eolas continues for many years to come”
50 individual carers will have regular opportunities to enjoy social interaction with other carers, making new friends and reducing their isolation. They will be more relaxed returning to their caring role which will be of benefit to the cared for person .
41 individual carers attended (127 attendances). 15 sessions provided in a relaxed setting and 15 sessions over Zoom. 1 session was a candle making workshop. A number of carers did not have internet access or were not interested in joining over Zoom, otherwise we would have met our target figure. Alternative care provided on 5 occasions. 95% reported attending Eolas increased their social circle and reduced isolation. Lasting friendships have been created with some of the carers have met outwith the group. A large number of the carers we support live in a remote and rural setting, so being able to attend Eolas reduces their social isolation.
Carer B cares for her Mother who is partially sighted, suffers from TIAs and has dementia. She is unable to leave her Mother unattended so her caring role is quite intense with virtually no support from family members. Carer B is a very bubbly, social person so Eolas is a way for her to keep connected to the community. She has made some good friendships at Eolas and they keep in touch out with the Group. Carer B told us: “All carers need an opportunity to get away from the caring role. We had a candle making session which I really enjoyed. It was very engaging and helped you to mentally switch off from the caring responsibilities. Attending Eolas makes you feel happy. We help each other as everybody has different ideas. There’s a good group of people at Eolas. It feels like we’ve become a family and is necessary more so just now than ever before.”
50 carers will have improved resilience through being able to share experiences and information with other carers. This shared experience/information can potentially improve the care they give to the cared for person.
41 individual carers attended Eolas sessions. Eolas facilitated the opportunity for carers to support each other, share information and discuss current issues such as residential respite. Staff on hand were able to provide information or take their concerns to a higher level. Sharing of practical solutions learned from personal experience, can prove invaluable. 100% reported they acquired information which was useful to their caring role. 63% felt it reduced the likelihood of a crisis
Carer C cares for her son who has Aspergers. Carer C is an elderly carer who doesn’t go out much due to her own health condition and has recently also been helping to care for her sister. She regularly attended the face to face meetings of Eolas and told us: “I looked forward to it. Brought me in amongst different people which was good. Made new friends and renewed old acquaintances. You learn from other people. We shared information and there was a sense of humour there too. Laughter is good for your mental health. We encourage each other to talk and help one another”