GAMH Carer Support Project
A story by Glasgow Association for Mental Health
We provided opportunities for Mental Health Carers including those from hardly reached communities to participate in “Me Time” health and wellbeing sessions and social activities/outings.
Sessions included pampering, relaxation, self-management tips and arts and crafts focusing on fun time out from caring.
What GAMH Carer Support Project did
We have had a very successful and busy year coordinating and delivering this project. We were able to begin delivery of the project promptly on the receipt of the funding as we utilised the existing experienced staff team within the Carers Project who work directly with carers on an individual basis. We produced promotional material such as flyers and distributed these through our extensive networks. We selected carers dependent on need which we identified through our assessment and review processes.
We delivered monthly social opportunities and quarterly health and well being events. These included a variety of social activities such as theatre trips, interest visits and eating out. The well being events incorporated a variety of pampering activities such as Indian dancing, mindfulness, tai chi, seated yoga, jewellery making and health checks from the carers nurse.
All of the opportunities that we delivered were suggestions from the carers who participated in our consultation questionnaire and focus groups. The staff team took full responsibility for coordinating, facilitating and organising these opportunities and events which included providing appropriate transport as required.
Carers had identified that they often spend so much time and energy organising things for their loved one that they had no motivation to take time for themselves. By doing this we found that carers were more able to take part in activities outside of their caring role, effectively reducing their isolation as well as having a positive impact on their health and well being. Carers reported that by taking away any external pressures they were more able to relax, have fun and have a stress free day.
During the assessment process it was recognised that Mrs X would benefit from the upcoming Health and Well being event as this would give her the opportunity to engage with other carers who would understand the unique challenges of being a mental health carer and she would have the opportunity to access the activities on offer that day. Activities such as the Carers Community Nurse, massage, Indian dancing, Jewellery making and getting her nails done.
Mrs X was nervous about coming to the event as she didn't know anyone however with the support of the staff she was introduced to everyone and they made her feel welcome. Mrs X participated in all of the activities on offer saying that "this is the first time I've ever had my nails done or had a massage" Mrs X reported an improvement in her own health and well being after the event saying that she felt "less stressed and more calm" and that "it has been a wonderful day that carers should get the chance to do more often".
The Health and Well being event let Mrs X try massage for the first time as she was unsure whether she would like it and she went on to complete a course of massages and mindfulness delivered by the CALM project within GAMH. The event gave her the boost she needed to take some time out for herself and she now participates in training, groups and activities all of which have greatly reduced her social isolation, stress and anxiety levels and overall her general well being has improved greatly.
X attended a Short Breaks funded social opportunity to visit the Kelpies. X related back that " it was a lovely day out with nice people and it was lovely to get some freedom away from my caring role and freedom for myself" The break away for a short time helped X realise the importance of taking some time out for herself. As she stated that this helps her recharge her batteries and she has since started to access groups within GAMH and in her local community to give herself regular 'me time'.
Through the assessment process it was quickly identified that G would benefit from attending the health and well being funded opportunities and she has participated in mindfulness, seated yoga and aromatherapy. G said " being part of organised events takes pressure off for a little while and gives me an opportunity to socialise with other carers"
These health and well being events have included massage and relaxation techniques which G found very beneficial as these are helping her to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. G has been extremely positive about the events and she has expressed her feeling of appreciation as they "have helped me cope better with my caring role".
What Glasgow Association for Mental Health has learnedHaving this funding has made an amazing difference to the lives of the mental health carers and we as staff have enjoyed seeing carers have fun time out from their caring responsibilities. We attribute these breaks to assisting carers to build their self esteem, confidence, health and well being, resilience as well as building their social networks.
We did however encounter some challenges. We had hoped to be able to reach more young adult carers, however our partnership working with the Young Carers Project didn't work out as we had planned so referrals didn't happen as hoped. At the beginning of the project staff found that they had to really encourage carers to take time out from their caring, however as the project developed carers experienced the direct benefit from attending and they were eager to be considered for future opportunities.
They also told other carers of the benefits which attracted more carers to the project. We also attracted carers from other partner organisations and we have tailored this project to meet the needs and demands of mental health carers through extensive consultation and coordination. We have ensured that individual carers needs have been matched to appropriate activities. This person centered approach helped to make this project successful.