A story by Western Isles Community Care Forum
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. Carers were notified of dates via newsletters and monthly notifications by email. Alternative care and transport provided for some carers.
Activities included: Quizzes and Bingo; a fishing trip; pottery workshop; candle making workshop; a First Aid talk; guest speakers from Scottish Government and local services.
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. As a result of feedback obtained, we are going to introduce more activities this year. 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.
Adding Value –Carers get short periods of respite on a regular basis, complementing statutory provision. Opportunity for friendships to form . We indirectly support the local hospitality trade and respite care services.
Knowledge & Understanding – When carers are together, they don’t feel they are being judged and share a lot of empathy. Knowing others are going through similar situations provides comfort. Two major successes this year:
Seeing new friendships develop and carers laughing together and the joy on the carers faces the day they went on a fishing trip. They were having so much fun, the trip scheduled for 2hrs turned into 4hrs thanks to the kindness of the skipper.
What Western Isles Community Care Forum has learned
Targeting families most in need of support being able to provide alternative care has enabled some carers an opportunity to get out of the house and socialise on a regular basis. It reduces isolation for them and the cared for. Eolas is something they very much look forward to.
Reaching out to and engaging with new families through feedback obtained following the fishing trip we realised that afternoon tea events are not everybody's ‘cup of tea’! Provision of activities enables us to engage with new carers.
Developing new short breaks activities we are going to provide more activities this year to try and meet the needs of more carers and hopefully enable existing attendees to become more active eg. Line dancing, Christmas wreath making workshops, more fishing trips, perhaps gentle yoga.
How Western Isles Community Care Forum 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. In the past 12 months the number of attendees has risen dramatically, demonstrating the need for this project. It has enabled staff to strengthen relationships with the carers they support and it has helped to increase our public profile. The project has also encouraged us to think outside of the box when delivering services and as a response to our feedback, we will introduce more activities going forward.
50 carers will have had the opportunity to relax over afternoon tea and enjoy the company of other carers in a relaxed setting
328 carers (94 individual carers) came along to Eolas. Regular attendees have made new friendships and some keep in contact out with the group. The activities we organised were well received and for some it meant trying a new experience for the first time. 96% said Eolas enabled them to enjoy more opportunities outside their caring role. Quotes from carers: “Eolas in Uist is enabling imaginative ideas and opportunities which are a very welcome break from the pressures of caring.” “Relaxing and entertaining. Cannot put my appreciation into words.” “Getting out and being able to talk to other people. It's good to mix with others. The fishing trip was something else! Great day out.”
On the back of a Respitality donation, we organised a fishing trip as a change from our normal afternoon tea activity. It was intended to be a 2hr fishing trip but the carers were having such a good time it was extended to 4hrs! Following this, one of the carers sent us the following feedback, which says it all. “Gone Fishing" An email hit my inbox asking if anyone would like to go fishing. It was from Western Isles Community Care Forum, an opportunity was available for unpaid carers to go sea fishing with LMS Leisure Excursions. I’ve never been fishing in my life or held a rod. So after a flurry of questions I put my name down and next thing I knew I was going fishing. As an unpaid carer, covering on a ‘good week’ 35-40 hours and on a ‘bad week’ 55-60 hours this was going to take some organising as I have no practical support in my carer role. The day started earlier than usual to get the day organised, who knew a fishing trip needed to be so well planned. But the person I care for and myself had a streamlined plan and it worked really well. All was set and off I went. I joined a few other unpaid carers with various degrees of excitement and fishing know how, as we set off from the harbour. The best afternoon I’ve ever had and not just because I caught quite a few fish. The excitement of doing something different, being with people who knew without a word the carer role, the chance to recharge batteries, just to let the sea breeze blow away the cares for a while. The thrill of catching fish and seeing the views of the islands from a boat, as well as the thrill of laughing and encouraging each other, as we all took pleasure in seeing each other grow in confidence with our rods and our catches, will stay not just for the moment but for a very long time to come. Plus, to go back to the unpaid carer role and having something to chat about and the people we help and support picking up on our joy and enthusiasm. The person I support is no longer able to take part in such activities and I am not just doing this for me, even though it is a break for me, but to take the experience back home so we can both celebrate. I’m writing this a couple of weeks after the afternoon trip and I am still talking about the day and the experience, it was a real boost to my self esteem and great to try something different. The day did cost in the carer role, as it was a very long day and did take the person I care for days to recover from me being away for a few hours on a physical level even though we had set up everything as well as we could. But saying that, we are both still benefitting from the afternoon and both of us said if opportunities came up again like this, we would plan and do it all again. It is really important for unpaid carers to be recognised and their role appreciated. Unpaid carers are often overlooked in their roles and the need to care for themselves often takes at best ‘second place’. Many work long hours on top of trying to support families and hold down paid work. The work of organisations like WICCF are vital to people like myself, plus the generosity of businesses like LMS Leisure Excursions, it can mean the difference to a carer being able to carry on their caring role with enthusiasm, motivation and the knowledge they are not invisible. Unpaid carers are all different, the support people flourish from is all different. I am not one for sitting, I am an outdoor person, therefore a break for me is getting out in nature. It’s really important that funding and opportunities exist, not just for conventional carers support activities (which I would like to say are equally important) but are different and reflect the diversity of people and the people supported. I would like to say a big thank you to WICCF for thinking ‘outside the box’, LMS Leisure Excursions for taking time to give us a great afternoon. I hope this reflective piece of writing will encourage people and organisations who are thinking they may like to support the roles of unpaid carers either financially or with opportunities to see what a difference it can make. Plus, the unpaid carers out there, take time for a break and consider doing something different too. It’s always great to challenge ourselves and see confidence and well being grow.”
90% of carers will report feeling less isolated and 85% will have gained information useful to their caring role
94 individual carers had the opportunity to socially meet other carers. On 52 occasions we arranged alternative care, to enable the carer the opportunity to attend Eolas and staff provided transport for 26 carers. 94% of carers who provided feedback said they felt better supported as carers. Quotes from carers: “I met some new people through Eolas and was good to share with each other in a confidential and supportive space.” “Best part is meeting other people and listening to their stories. Being able to ask questions to my peers rather than official people.”
Carer C looks after his wife who is a wheelchair user, meeting all her needs by himself. Carer C also has health issues of his own. Attending Eolas was 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 and told us “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. I must confess it does loosen ones self up when we get together. The connectivity is quite refreshing and it gives us all an opportunity just to forget about the world outside for a couple of hours.”
85% of carers will have reported improved health & wellbeing
98% of carers providing feedback said Eolas had Increased their social circle & reduced isolation. 94% said attending Eolas increased their ability to cope with their caring role. “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. “Eolas has many benefits - somebody to listen to a worry and solve it” said another.
Carer B looks after her husband who suffered a stroke. He requires constant supervision, so Carer B is tied to the house and can sometimes feel isolated, as generally her only visitors are the family. She appreciated alternative care being put in place, to enable her to attend Eolas with peace of mind. Her husband had the opportunity to speak with somebody different and the regular care attendant knew the area well, and was a Gaelic speaker, so he enjoyed reminiscing with her. Carer B told us “Sometimes I feel very lonely at home. Eolas helps me as I am very stressed through continually caring at home and this is one of the very few times I get out. I really enjoy meeting lovely people & chatting, sharing information. Taking part in the competitions is also fun. When I return home I am much more relaxed. I hope Eolas keeps going because of the benefits we get out of it.” When carer B returns home she shares conversations with her husband and he enjoys hearing about those who enquired about him. This in turn makes him think about other things, which is good for his mental wellbeing.