Here Comes The Fun
A story by The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service
Our project was aimed at enabling carers of those living with dementia to attend a series of regular social events throughout the year, meeting up with other carers in similar circumstances. While these events were ongoing, our staff team also hosted simultaneous events for their loved ones too.
What Here Comes The Fun did
Tuesday, 31.05.22: Afternoon Tea for carers, The Redhurst Hotel, Giffnock; Simultaneous music and dance event for cared for, St Andrew’s Church, Barrhead. Friday, 02.09.22: Carers and cared for Lunch outing: The Old Plane Tree, Darnley. Thursday 15.09.22: ‘Sunshine on Leith’ live musical event, Eastwood Theatre, Giffnock; Simultaneous music/craft and buffet evening, The Hub Cafe, Barrhead.
A total of 17 carers and 10 cared for people took part in our programme of events, which worked directly with carers and their loved ones too.
Carers reported that they had very much enjoyed the events which had been arranged, and they liked that there were simultaneous events too, enabling them to take part in the knowledge that their loved ones were being well cared for during the carer events. This model seemed to help match with the ‘mutual benefit’ Creative Breaks priority. Consultation with carers throughout helped with personalisation and targeted support of the programme to suit carer/cared for person’s needs.
One carer who took part in the programme chose to pursue their own interests on event days. Our programme model of holding simultaneous events for their loved ones meant that she got the opportunity to bring her husband along to those and go off to pursue those interests. This gave her the opportunity to step away from her caring role, safe in the knowledge that her husband was safe and enjoying a fun day/evening too.
Successes: Carers said that they had thoroughly enjoyed the programme; and it was great to see many who had never met before getting to know each other.
Did it go to plan: There were delays in the programme commencing due to covid-related issues, however the service responded by arranging alternative, similar enjoyable events, prior to the scheduled end of the programme on 30.09.22.
What The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has learned
Carers told us directly how their lives had been changed by the covid pandemic and the knock-on effects of lockdowns, such as isolation, anxiety, lack of social contact and separation from family and friends. This has made us as a service even more acutely aware of the paramount importance of making a wide range of social activity opportunities available again to carers and their loved ones with a dementia diagnosis as soon as possible, as society continues with its covid recovery.
A) Project planning: Forward-planning proved to be very difficult throughout the programme due to the ongoing pandemic, which often led to short-notice changes having to be made. Despite these very difficult circumstances, we believe that we adapted well and put together a meaningful programme which had really positive outcomes for all of those who took part.
B) Targeting families most in need of support: Working closely with carers throughout the year on a day-to-day basis whilst delivering our regular supports in the community, we can gauge situations where carers may be most in need of some additional support or respite quickly. One such situation saw a carer whose loved one had fallen ill. In this case, we were able to act immediately to step in and provide additional support to their loved one at home so that the carer could attend our Creative Breaks programme.
C) Reaching out and engaging with new families: We are always keen to include new families in our ongoing programme of events, including Creative Breaks. Carers who are new to our service are always kept fully up to date on any up-and-coming events that we have approaching, either directly via their keyworker or our service newsletter. We’ve been absolutely delighted this year to have welcomed a total of nine new families to take part in our 2021/22 Creative Breaks programme.
How The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks funding has allowed us as a service to provide an additional fun and meaningful programme of events for carers right across East Renfrewshire. Our programme of events always sees carers making other great suggestions for future events too, and we as a service always do what we can to incorporate these suggestions. At this time, having spoken to carers about their interests and hobbies, we are already looking to plan a series of art-based events. Whilst only in the early planning stages, we have already acquired some craft materials, are looking at other art mediums, such as pottery, and hope to host a small exhibition at the end of the proposed project, showcasing people’s work.
With the Covid-19 pandemic having such a huge impact on everyone’s lives, our service wanted to deliver a fun programme of events and activities that ensured that carers/cared for got regular opportunities to enjoy themselves socially within their local communities again and make new acquaintances.
Our programme saw a total of 17 carers getting regular opportunities to get together at relaxed, pre-arranged events to socialise, chat and step away from their caring responsibilities. Carers who attended gave really positive feedback to our staff team and it was great to see people, many of whom had never met before the programme, chatting, laughing and enjoying themselves together with others whom they had since come to get to know at the events. This was what we had really hoped for as a service when we completed our original Creative Breaks application back in April/May 2021. Having spoken to carers before completing the original application, it was apparent that the covid pandemic had curtailed so many of their usual social activities and the associated opportunities to get out-and-about to socialise. Now having completed our 2021/22 programme of events, we believe that the events arranged helped in some way to addressing some of the adverse effects of the pandemic.
Heather is a carer for her husband, Jim, who has a dementia diagnosis and has been supported by TRFS East Renfrewshire Dementia Service for more than five years. Heather said that the service’s recent Creative Breaks programme had been excellent and that she and Jim had really enjoyed all of the social events. Heather said: “The spread put on at the afternoon tea was lovely and I met new people at the carers' lunch, so that was good as well. “Jim and I also used to really enjoy going to the theatre too, but we don't really go anymore because the show doesn't hold his attention now. I thoroughly enjoyed Sunshine on Leith.” Heather added that this getting together with other carers was also hugely beneficial for her. She said: “I really enjoyed the breaks; getting to meet other people who are in the same situation. Everybody is different. People may have dementia, but there are so many different types of dementia, so you are always learning new things. I enjoyed meeting up and learning about their experiences as well. “It's company for me too. Jim doesn't talk with me much at home now - very, very rarely, so it's good for me to meet up with other people.” Heather said that she would not hesitate to recommend getting involved with any future Creative Breaks programmes to other carers. She added: “These breaks have been so important. At the beginning (after diagnosis) I used to think I didn't need help and I could do everything myself, but when I'm told that there are events on now, I’ll really try to go along. It's really important getting that time out.... it's 'me time'.” Heather added: “I try to go to everything that you do. I just like being with all of the other people - it’s company. When you’re in company with people that don’t understand dementia, it’s just not the same. “I’m so grateful for everything that you have put on for us, for Jim and for me. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it.”
With many carers/cared for having effectively lost their long-established formal and informal support networks overnight, we hope that they will have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities to re-engage with social activity within their communities and meet others in similar circumstances.
Many carers said that they found it really beneficial to meet up with others who were in similar positions to themselves and share their experiences. As a service we really hoped that carers would benefit from this type of informal peer support throughout the programme. This seems to have happened very naturally within the varied conversations at our Creative Breaks get-togethers. For example, a discussion on the process for obtaining power of attorney at one of our events led to lots of information sharing between carers. There was comprehensive practical information on this subject given from carers who had actually been through this, sometimes complicated, legal process themselves. Having attended multiple events, it was great to see carers recognising and greeting each other as they had already met before at previous events.
The East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has provided support to carer Susan and her husband Thomas, who has a dementia diagnosis, since early 2021. Susan took part in our Creative Breaks programme and told us that she really valued being able to meet up with others. Susan said: “I just thought that it was marvellous, I loved it. I loved meeting other people; it was really good to hear their views. I really enjoyed it and thought that it was a great thing to be doing, and a great idea.” Susan also really felt that the return to meeting up again in person within the community was beneficial too, as society continues with its covid recovery following a lengthy spell of groups, socialising and activities taking place on online platforms. Susan added: “We’ve been doing things on Zoom and that’s all very well but when other people are talking, you don’t know whether to come in, or what you’re supposed to do. “When you’re face-to-face, other things come into your mind. You hear what others are saying and you think: ‘I could maybe find out about that’. You think about things that you want to ask. It was so good to meet other people like myself. It definitely helps you as a person.” The above feedback seems to show that Susan really got a lot out of the programme in terms of feeling and valuing that added peer support from other carers whose loved ones were also going through a similar dementia journey.