LifeCare Cares for Carers
A story by LifeCare Edinburgh
Working alongside carers, they ran groups such as art, mindfulness and yoga to provide a break away, to meet others in a similar position, to feel valued and supported.
“LifeCare Cares for Carers” supports unpaid carers by offering a variety of free activities from our community hub in Edinburgh.
What LifeCare Cares for Carers did
Our “LifeCare Cares for Carers” project provides regular short break activities for all unpaid carers of adults in Edinburgh, working to the Creative Breaks principle of improving the quality of life of unpaid carers - and those they care for. We work alongside our unpaid carers to choose a varied selection of activities to ensure we reach and engage as many unpaid carers as possible.
Activities range from art and sculpture to dance and yoga; running three activities a week in eight-week blocks, rotating choices and days/times available. All activities took place in our community hub in the heart of Stockbridge which is easily reached and fully accessible. The hub also hosts our community café where carers can meet others before or after sessions.
We reach unpaid carers through our own existing relationships, through press, socials, connections and signposting with other relevant organisations and through our newsletters to clients, carers and posters within the café and hub.
Our carers have told us that these activities are making a huge difference to their lives, they look forward to coming along every week, enjoying regular ‘me time’, meeting others in a similar position helps them feel understood and supported and additionally they benefit from the positive health impacts e.g. relaxation and mindfulness of the class themes.
Our project was slightly delayed to start with, as we took some time to establish the classes amongst Christmas activities timing but has proceeded well since then. As we look ahead, we will make a few changes to try to boost numbers further including increasing our efforts to attract a younger group of attendees, we hope to do this by running classes in the evening and at weekends.
What LifeCare Edinburgh has learned
Through delivering this project we have learned that often, unpaid carers do not always recognise themselves as such. Moving forward we will strengthen our messaging around this and target our marketing so that we can engage more people and so more people can benefit.
That it is harder to engage with young carers of older adults, we plan to market the next funded report to a wider network and offer sessions out with the traditional working day.
That these sessions are delivering longer-term support than we had expected. Carers are telling us that they are now finding time to practice yoga through the week at home, and that they are picking up their painting brushes at other opportunities. By coming along to the class they are reigniting their passion for an activity.
That the time of year makes a big difference to attendee numbers. Our activities experienced a dip in the summer and moving forward we will counteract this by consulting with attendees to make a revised plan for the summer months e.g. activities outdoors.
How LifeCare Edinburgh has benefitted from the funding
This funding has delivered huge benefits to LifeCare as a whole - many thanks, we are most grateful. The funding allowed us to build on our existing relationships with carers, mainly through relations with clients, by for the first time allowing us to deliver a dedicated service for the growing numbers of unpaid carers. Initially set up as a pilot through this fund, we are very grateful to be provided with the opportunity to extend this support so that we can continue to build our relationships and our profile as a provider of support.
Unpaid carers will report that they have increased social opportunities available to them, that they have made lasting connections/increased their social circle and enjoyed the companionship of people with similar life experience as a result of the project
We have offered a total of 144 individual activities/social opportunities thanks to this first year of funding. Offered in 8-weekly blocks attendees would build friendships by coming along each week and getting to know each other whilst enjoying a break from their caring role. Sometimes they would talk about completely different things and other times they would support each other in their caring responsibilities, sharing stories and experiences with someone else in the same position helps to bond and build friendships and informal support networks. We are also seeing really positive bonds forming between class teachers and those attending the classes which helps to strengthen the groups.
Ian, (68) has been an unpaid carer for five years caring for his wife who is living with dementia. Before coming to our activities, Ian didn't know anyone else in a similar position to him he told us he felt lonely a lot of the time and was never sure he was doing the right thing for his wife. They had spent the majority of the pandemic, in isolation and this had been a real struggle. He saw an ad about the classes in our community hub and thought 'why not?'. The classes give him something positive to look forward to but above that he just enjoys being with other people, they share stories and offer advice and encouragement. Ian is enjoying the social aspects and this makes him feel stronger and more confident caring at home.
Unpaid carers of adults will report that they feel better equipped to carry on and more able to cope with their caring responsibilities
Unpaid carers attending our activities have told us that thanks to the groups, classes and the informal networks they have created they feel much more equipped, confident and able they feel in their caring role. The opportunity to have a short break, to visit somewhere different, to think about something completely different and chat with other people is much appreciated and delivers significant positive impacts. Through the friendships they have built they now have someone to reach out to who understands the difficulties, can offer advice and encouragement. The activity choices have come directly through consultation with carers, they have selected classes to help them relax, to move and to be mindful. Yoga, gentle exercise and mindfulness provides significant health benefits and carers are benefiting from learning these new skills which equip them long term.
Rosemary, (71) attends our unpaid carers dance and movement classes. "It's been so great, people forget that carers get ill too and they need time to recuperate which is almost impossible to do when you are an unpaid carer. The Pilates class helps me move and feel better so I am able to look after her. If the classes didn't exist, I wouldn't be getting better and I would be really lonely. Feeling happier, more relaxed and having better mobility makes me happy and fulfilled, and able to cope."
Unpaid carers will be provided with the opportunity to have a break from their caring duties and to think about their own health and needs
We have seen incredibly positive results from the classes. Participants are provided with social opportunities, given a chance to relax and create relationships within the class and groups. By coming along to a yoga class, or an art group, carers are learning new skills and practices that they can take home with them and use daily - breathing, stretching etc. They are also 'getting lost' in a new activity, focusing on something new, switching off from their responsibilities which can be gruelling and consuming.
Wendy attends the art class on a Tuesday. She says: "We love the art group, we get so much satisfaction doing something creative together with others. The teacher and other participants are an absolute joy and we all get along so well. If the class didn't exist we wouldn't leave the house. It has made me feel so much better." Wendy has stated that there is very little that she can do out with their home but because LifeCare is accessible it is easy for them to access. Wendy has said that it gives her a great sense of achievement seeing the artwork created. The class also has a hugely positive impact on her well being.