A story by Western Isles Community Care Forum
We provided “Eolas” which is a bi-monthly group which is held in areas of The Western Isles in relaxed settings. We provided either afternoon tea or morning coffee sessions so carers could meet, relax and chat amongst each other.
What Eolas did
Bi-monthly we provided afternoon tea or morning coffee in relaxed settings for carers, giving them the opportunity to meet other carers and relax. Hotels and restaurants on the 4 main islands were chosen, so venues could be accessible to as many carers as possible. Alternative care and transport could be funded to enable all carers the opportunity to attend.
We maintain a Register of Unpaid Carers so notified all carers on our database of the events and advertised on our Facebook, website and the local press. Occasionally, a carer would bring along the person they Cared For.
We encouraged Third Sector Partners providing alternative care, to promote the project with their clients who may not have been known to us. Events were hosted by staff employed via a separate project supporting unpaid carers. Both projects dove-tailed nicely and made good use of available resources.
Creative Breaks priority areas that we addressed were, choice and control, meeting other carers and sharing experiences and information, boosted carers confidence and resilience. Eolas provided a break from their caring role and the opportunity to relax. There was no format set –carers chose what they wanted to discuss.
Outreach, Eolas met at various locations so the group was accessible to carers living in rural areas. Providing alternative care, ensured carers unable to leave their cared for unattended, were able to attend. Joint-working, Eolas linked with another project we administer, maximising resources. Alternative care was purchased from Third Sector Organisations, which met the needs of the carers but also provided an additional source income for the care provider.
Requests for alternative care increased through time and regular attendees encouraged other carers in the community to join, which was very encouraging. Only aspect which did not go to plan was there were no requests for transport.
What Western Isles Community Care Forum has learned
Through delivering this project we’ve learned, that we need to improve the way we advertise. Initially we were advertising sessions prior to them taking place, but in the future we will advertise all sessions together so carers can mark them on their calendars well in advance (in addition to prompts for each round of sessions).
Informing various partners of Eolas would be beneficial to perhaps reach carers not known to ourselves. We had no requests for transport, so in future, it would be more beneficial to replace this budget with advertising costs.
How Western Isles Community Care Forum has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks funding has helped to strengthen our Organisation’s reputation locally by providing an additional service for carers. It is also beneficial to us to quote this service when applying for funding elsewhere. Staff in the various venues where we meet are now aware of our existence, so our profile in the community will increase. Our staff are able to engage with carers in a relaxed setting which helps to strengthen their relationships. More importantly, providing this service is a small way of acknowledging the sterling work carers do and saying ‘Thank you’.
It is anticipated that 88% of carers who attended will feel better supported, 85% will feel more relaxed and 73% will feel better able to cope.
From the feedback received, 100% of carers reported feeling more relaxed after attending Eolas. 100% felt better supported as carers and 86% felt better able to cope. As well as providing an opportunity to relax, Eolas can reduce the feelings of social isolation which are often attached to a caring role. This is more evident in rural areas. A carer who looks after a disabled child told us, “Eolas has benefited me by enabling me to meet other carers and this has made me feel less alone and not as isolated as I once was. To someone like me it can be a life line.”
Carer A has for several years looked after her mother who has Dementia and is now immobile. She cannot leave her mother unattended and relies on support services to let her go out during the day. As she lives in a rural area, it means she does not have much time to spare if she goes to the local town centre. Consequently she is forever rushing about. This is what she said about Eolas, “ I love Eolas. I'm always rushing about and at Eolas I can sit and relax. It's my time to chill as there is somebody at home looking after my mother. No pressure. Total relaxation.”
60 carers will participate in Eolas over the 12 month period.
56 Carers attended Eolas which met six times at different locations in the Western Isles for 1.5 hours. There were 131 attendances in total. They were able to relax over afternoon tea and enjoy the company of other carers.
Carer B has looked after her mother, who is house-bound, for several years. She said without the respite cover we provide, she would not be able to attend Eolas and would be more isolated as a result. She really enjoys meeting up and discussing issues with other people, hearing different points of view. She finds the Group very informative and it makes a big difference. They also enjoy some laughs together. She has met new people through Eolas as well as old friends and gotten to know others in depth. She told us “It’s good to get out and and forget your responsibilities for a while”.
60 carers will participate in Eolas over the 12 month period.
56 carers attended Eolas and carers have all enjoyed attending Eolas with some feeling this Group is an acknowledgement of their caring role and what it entails. They appreciate the relaxed settings we provide. Some Groups have had discussions about available services and where there has been conflicting reports received by the carers, staff have been able to go and clarify matters for them eg. residential respite allocations. One carer said, "I feel more relaxed and better able to cope after attending Eolas. I enjoy the social and emotional support we offer each other over an indulgent afternoon tea! I hear of events and available support. It really is “Peer Counselling ” as we are all in similar situations. It is very helpful that this is led by a care worker from Western Isles Community Care Forum. I have come to the island to look after my father. I don’t know a lot of people since I wasn’t brought up here so I value the social interaction as I am isolated."
One carer who attends had until recently enjoyed a social life with her husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. Now that his condition has deteriorated, the carer values attending Eolas, as they have reached the stage where they need additional support and are having difficulty coming to terms with this. They don’t like asking for help and she has found Eolas is a good place to start out on this journey. She enjoys meeting and talking to other carers in a relaxed setting and realises that she does need time away from her caring role. When she returns home she is able to share local news with her husband, so he knows what is going on in the community. Eolas has helped her to realise that she is not alone.