A story by Western Isles Community Care Forum SCIO
Eolas is a social group for carers, which enables them to come together, in a relaxed setting and enjoy afternoon tea/morning coffee. We can pay for alternative care, when it is required. There is opportunity to have a chat or discuss problems, make new friends and to support each other.
What Eolas did
We arranged afternoon tea/morning coffee at various locations across the Western Isles on a monthly basis for unpaid carers. Where alternative care was required, we organised that to enable the carer to attend Eolas. Occasionally the cared for person attended if they could not be left in somebody else's care.
To add a bit of interest and fun to the proceedings we introduced some quizzes with prizes this year and invited the Community Equipment Service to showcase the equipment available. The latter proved to be very informative and useful as several carers went home with new gadgets.
Staff provided transport for some carers and it was a joy for us to see friendships blossom. Mutual Benefit – Sharing experiences will help carers better cope with some aspects of their caring role. Tips received from fellow carers can be extremely helpful. New carers can get an insight into what may lie ahead for them, so they will be better prepared. Also good for the carer and cared for to spend some time apart, which can reduce tensions in the home.
Personalisation – Eolas is driven by the service users. We continually seek their opinions on timings, dates, content etc. Targeted Support – Eolas meets at various locations to ensure it is accessible to many carers, especially those less likely to access support. It affords us an opportunity to strengthen relationships between staff and carers, ultimately enabling us to better support them.
Adding Value – It enables all carers to get short periods of respite on a regular basis complementing any respite received from statutory services. It affords staff the opportunity to hear of problems with local services or indeed which ones are working well. Meeting the same people regularly provides the opportunity for friendships to form. This project also indirectly supports the local hospitality trade and respite care services.
Knowledge & Understanding – When carers are together, they don’t feel they are being judged and they share a lot of empathy. Knowing others are going through similar situations provides comfort. As well as sharing information, carers can relax and have a laugh together, easing tensions and stress.
What Western Isles Community Care Forum SCIO has learned
Respite is vital to unpaid carers. Statutory provision is often limited and not accessible for some carers for different reasons. Eolas provides small but regular slots of respite, so they have something to look forward to each month. Carers spend most of their time waiting on others - at Eolas we have the opportunity to wait on them!
We are able to support other organisations. When we purchase alternative care, we are providing additional funding for another third sector organisation and also providing additional hours for a care attendant. Our project also supports the hospitality trade which has suffered through the pandemic.
Eolas can be a way of encouraging unpaid carers to join our Organisation, be it through word of mouth of current attendees or via staff.
How Western Isles Community Care Forum SCIO has benefitted from the funding
The Creative Breaks funding has enabled us to continue a project that has become established and which carers value enormously. We have been able to expand the service by introducing various activities - wearing Christmas jumpers and accessories, inviting the community equipment service, having a quiz. There is a lot of stress in the caring role and these activities bring some fun into their lives.
50 carers will have had the opportunity to get a break from their caring role. They will meet new people and/or old acquaintances and enjoy refreshments in a relaxed setting.
71 individual carers came along to Eolas. Regular attendees have made new friendships and they can keep in contact out with the group. We are introducing a few activities to Eolas to add a little bit of fun now and again. The quizzes we held were well received and prizes included Christmas decorations and supermarket vouchers. Whilst the visit by the community equipment service was informative, we also added a fun element by giving a prize for recognising what an obscure gadget was for. “It’s absolutely brilliant! You get to sit with like-minded people, who have made the same choice/commitment as you. The community equipment talk was really good and the quiz at Christmas got everybody involved.” was what one carer told us.
Carer A looks after her elderly Father who has dementia. None of her family live near her and her husband is out at work every day, so she is tied to the home. If it were not for carers coming in to help, she would be quite isolated. Alternative care is paid for by Eolas and so carer A gets an opportunity to get out and enjoy herself. “Having afternoon tea is a treat and I get to meet new people, whom I would not have met otherwise” Carer A feels a connection between the other carers and they can support each other, sharing problems. She has enjoyed the quizzes and is quite relaxed knowing her Father is being well looked after. “Dad enjoys the company of the carers and I can forget my caring duties for a while, so we are both happy”
Carers will have shared information and supported each other at Eolas. They will have had a period of respite where they can re-charge their batteries.
71 individual carers had the opportunity to socially meet other carers. On 26 occasions we organised and paid for alternative care, to enable the carer the opportunity to attend Eolas. Many carers met new people and for some lasting friendships have been created. The carers enjoyed learning what was available via the community equipment store, and several went home with small aids. One carer told us “It’s very beneficial for improving social contact and feeling valued as a carer. It feels like there is something shared between the carers even without words to express it. Very useful as it can feel lonely and forgotten about being a home carer.”
Carer B gave up her employment to look after both her parents who are elderly. Caring for two people leaves her with very little time for herself and she cannot leave the house without replacement care. We were able to purchase replacement care and Carer B was able to get a few hours of regular respite. She told us she found it comforting to speak to other carers in a similar situation. The community equipment presentation she found particularly useful, as they were using a lot of aids at home. “A lot of useful information is exchanged between the carers as well as shared experiences. Carers matters such as discussions around legal issues affecting the elderly in particular – things you wouldn’t normally talk about. It's good to know you are not alone. I met somebody whose husband was living with dementia, and I knew him from many years ago. We were able to talk about him before his illness took hold, which the wife enjoyed as it brought back good memories of her husband & gave great comfort at a difficult time. We also have a lot of laughs together which lightens the load we all carry.”
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 – 45 people will have a better experience of care
100% of the carers who provided feedback reported they had improved health & wellbeing. 95% said it increased their social circle and reduced isolation. 90% acquired information useful to their caring role at Eolas. “It's a wonderful opportunity to get a wee break and chat with other carers in a relaxed and informal environment. It can't be understated how important that is.” was what one carer told us.
Carer C looks after his wife who is a wheelchair user. Carer C also has health issues of his own. He found attending Eolas very beneficial as it got him out of the house, and he was able to do some networking amongst other carers. He found the information that was shared very useful. “We also have a good laugh together and I have made new friends. It’s a lovely group of people who all show concern for each other”