My Choice: Any Time, Any Place, Any Where
A story by Connecting Carers
We delivered a range of creative short break activities to Carers in Highland designed to improve and arm carers with tools to support their wellbeing and enable to them to sustain their caring role for the future. Activities were free of charge and fully resourced.
What My Choice: Any Time, Any Place, Any Where did
We developed a programme of short break activities, photography walking tours, art and craft activities, support group, ice skating, creative writing, yoga, pamper sessions and mountain biking.
We introduced a blended approach to the delivery of the activities and online content enabled carers from rural areas and those who were unable to leave the cared for person unattended an opportunity to participate.
Online delivery was available via Zoom and Google Classroom using secure log in with carers using EventBrite to sign up. All resources for activities were sent directly to participants in time for the session. We offered face to face sessions at various locations and at different times including evenings.
369 adult and young carers participated and we managed the participant list on a first come first service basis. The programme of activities was available to all Carers and Young Carers registered with the organisation. We used social media, newsletters, email, website to advertise the content and in addition we discussed the benefits of accessing the activities with new and existing Carers in one to one conversations.
The most successful of the activities was the online Carer Activity Group. Carers were provided with a different craft kit each month and invited to an informal group session facilitated by our own Carer Link Workers. The majority of the sessions were over subscribed however they offered the Carer the opportunity to access peer support, complete the ‘craft’ in their own time, share with the Cared for Person and provide a break from the caring role.
We experienced low attendance at face to face sessions due to Covid and many Carers remaining cautious about returning to group activities. The project addressed the following creative breaks areas: mutual benefit, personalisation, targeted support, adding value, developing knowledge and understanding.
What Connecting Carers has learned
We have developed a programme of wellbeing related short break activities offering variety and flexibility accessible by carers across the Highland region. Some activities were over subscribed and we continue to receive requests to arrange additional sessions.
We developed processes to raise awareness of short break activities at first point of contact and used a range of communication methods to engage with carers.
Partnership working is invaluable, we are able to promote the range of short break activities to our partners and forge stronger links within the community and raise awareness of our service.
How Connecting Carers has benefitted from the funding
We have been able to provide a varied and flexible wellbeing related programme of activities enabling carers to access a break from the caring role. We were able to introduce a wider range of activities to carers, build stronger relationships with existing partners and established new relationships through the delivery of the programme. The carer activity support group was extremely popular and carers have valued the informal setting and opportunity to learn new skills. The programme enabled us to engage with new carers who previously had been unable to participate due to rurality, lack of replacement care and limited travel options. We discovered a growing population of Carers experiencing a long term health condition and/or disability which enabled us to successfully apply for funding to create a new post of Research and Engagement Officer in Highland.
Carers will have more opportunities to engage with our service, meet other carers, feel supported and learn new skills and improve their wellbeing through creative activities and events.
We delivered a total of individual short break activities to 369 carers/young carers, providing 11 activity carer support sessions, 16 individual yoga sessions, a photography walking tour, creative writing session which we supplemented with an additional 4 sessions, 60 creative art kits to both adult and young carers, introduced a photography course, 3 pampering sessions, along with skating and mountain bike sessions. We organised a total of 700 individual places to Carers/Young Carers throughout the period of the programme. Delivery of content on line across Highland was successful and provided Carers with the opportunities they did not previously have to access a variety of activities, try new things, meet new Carers from across Highland and they did not have to worry about transport, costs or replacement care.
One participant who accessed a creative art activity shared how they are unable to even explain how badly they need a break and have time to themselves and an opportunity to recharge and rebalance. The activity would give 'their heart and mind', a break from caring responsibilities and worries and encourage them to take the time for themselves to be creative.
Carers will report to us they feel more supported from our service and note the benefits of being able to access the activity programme.
Feedback indicated carers feel less isolated, experienced improved wellbeing, feel more relaxed and the activities provided them with a break from the caring role. ‘An opportunity to relax and think about something other than caring responsibilities for a bit’, ‘enjoyed listening in to other cares in same situation’, ‘Had a fun day making a dream catcher and meeting new people Thank you’.
One participant shared the following with us: 'So often you have the idea to do something, creative/physical/personal, but it is all too easy to side-line this due to the exhaustion and demands that come with your caring responsibilities. It’s extremely hard being responsible for another adult and trying to keep all the balls of life juggling. If one drops they all tend to drop. For me, I often find I am just so tired that I go outside and just cry to myself, recover and go back in and resume. It sounds silly but it seems to work and I just hope no one ever sees me!!! In caring for a relative there is an assumption that you will always cope and little by little extra things are added on until you stop and look back and find you are doing so much more than previously. Being responsible for another adult has no downtime, he/she is always in your mind. Eventually you stop making plans or dates with friends because your past experiences tell you that some crisis is likely to crop up. You can never be spontaneous. I find that having a kit you can do at home and a time are real incentives to give that mental break that is needed. Otherwise this time out is the first thing to be set aside. Also being creative is very satisfying and allows you to explore parts of your inner soul that are not often allowed to surface'.
Carers report improved wellbeing and relationships with the cared for person.
We were able to measure success by asking carers to rate their wellbeing between 1 and 5, (5 being the highest), how they felt at the start and completion of an activity and overwhelmingly recorded they felt so much better after participating. Many of the creative activities were designed to provide the carer with the choice to participate individually and/or include the cared for person. We have a thriving on line community of Carers from across Highland reducing the impact of isolation and promoting peer support. We have improved the wellbeing of Carers by offering ‘something for everyone’ that is wellbeing themed. Carers have enjoyed the variety and ability to try something new. We identified a growing number of our Carers experienced long term health conditions and/or disability. We have introduced a monthly Wellbeing Bitesize activity facilitated by the new Wellbeing Service.
One participant shared how they have always enjoyed doing anything creative but struggle to access activities as caring for her mother who is bedbound. The opportunity to access a break from the comfort of her own home was invaluable as it would take her mind off caring responsibilities for a little while and lovely to have a wee respite from it all.