Older Carers Befriending and Wellbeing Project
A story by Glasgow East End Community Carers
The Carers Hub provided an Older Carers Befriending and Wellbeing project as one of its many services.
Carers aged 65+ living across the East End of Glasgow are supported to access our volunteer befriending service and to engage in a wide range of meaningful social, wellbeing activities with peers.
What Older Carers Befriending and Wellbeing Project did
We provided meaningful breaks that reflected what older carers told us they wanted. We delivered these via, Older Carers Volunteer Befriending Service
Wellbeing activities for older carers.
Our Volunteer Befriending Service provided befriending to carers age 65+ who, due to their high tariff caring role and their own health conditions, had become increasingly isolated and disconnected from their local community. Many suffered from stress and had little or no time for themselves.
Our service matched trained volunteers with carers or, in some cases, the cared for person giving older carers weekly contact and a safe route back into community life.
Those matched with a befriender tell us that this relationship continues to positively impact their lives, relieving stress, reducing isolation and increasing their social network, helping them to cope longer and better. The befriending service also acted as a bridge to other Hub services including support groups drop-in café, dementia clinic and benefits advice.
Our wellbeing activities and peer support groups offer carers the opportunity to enjoy peer company, to re-establish past interests and to increase their resilience to care. Our activities include our weekly drop-in café, monthly social event, male carers group, tai chi, mindfulness, allotment, walking/outdoor groups and a range of mind-and-body-expanding workshops and courses.
In order to ensure success of our project, we consulted with carers via formal planning meetings, informal group discussions and suggestion boxes. We went on to evaluate our services in a number of ways including via review meetings, focus groups, support & supervision and statistical data. Many older carers who have lost confidence and become isolated over a long period, respond better to the 1:1 support offered by a befriender. Others gain more benefit from the conversation and story-telling they get while attending activity and peer groups.
We invested in our volunteers though prudent recruitment and comprehensive in-house training. We provided ongoing support & supervision to volunteers and conducted quarterly reviews with carers.
What Glasgow East End Community Carers has learned
Staff Resources - As our provision of activities and peer support has increased in range and number, so we find that carers can often by-pass the need for volunteer befriending to ‘bridge’ the gap between isolation and socialisation. Many carers who have benefited from our Older Carers Befriending Service are now moving on to attend one or more of our activities/groups. However, we need to continue to provide 1:1 befriending particularly where a carer has poor self-esteem and low confidence, or rarely gets out due to the physical or psychological demands placed on them or due to their own health conditions.
To ensure that we reach the carers most in need of 1:1 time out with a befriender, we are spending more time assessing this aspect and are increasing our support to carers who are attending groups for the first time.
We have learned to pilot new ideas and make changes where necessary. For example, our older carers highly evaluated our ‘singing for health’ and wanted to continue. When a new session started, the numbers were lower than expected. We’ve learned that sometimes ‘creative reworking’ rather than giving up is all that may be required. When we changed the time slot, length of course and topical theme, our numbers grew again.
We have also learned from talking to older carers that they often need a little more ‘facilitation’ input. Sometimes they feel they are not being heard when being consulted or their lack of confidence can mean they don’t put forward their case strongly enough. We now provide additional ‘facilitation’ support at our planning meetings, for example.
We found that our former carers make skilled and supportive befriending volunteers with a depth of understanding that has been invaluable. We have learned to use their knowledge and experience in our peer support and activity groups. Carers who are in the midst of their caring role gain a tremendous sense of hope and perspective from relating to former carers. In many cases it has helped both parties move on and gives former carers a sense of purpose and self-worth.
How Glasgow East End Community Carers has benefitted from the funding
Glasgow East End Community Carers covers a broad geographic area of multiple deprivation where our population suffers disproportionately from chronic ill-health, poverty and lack of opportunity. Creative breaks funding has allowed us to improve health and wellbeing outcomes in an area of disadvantage and otherwise not available to older carers. In 2017-18 we were able to provide 2800+ health and wellbeing activities to carers 65+ over-and-above that provided by our befriending service. We see our befriending and activities programmes as a preventive approach, allowing us to support carers to maintain their health and/or tackle issues pre-crisis. Through this funding, older carers are better connected and less isolated within their community and will be equipped to live healthier, fuller lives in an area where life expectancy is significantly lower than in other parts of the City. Our professional partnerships have been strengthened by Creative Breaks funding – we have worked with local statutory and voluntary partners Services including Parkview Mental Health Resource Centre, Community Connectors, Community Link Practitioners and Alzheimer Scotland to ensure we complement rather than duplicate the services provided in the East End. This in turn increases our presence and reputation in the local community as we are the only Glasgow carers’ service to offer a choice of carer-specific activities to carers age 65+. It is also anticipated that the success of the project will ensure the long-term presence of the Carers Hub at the heart of the Community, furthering the choice and range of appropriate ongoing support.
25 older carers will have reduced isolation and feel less lonely.
50 + older carers have reduced isolation and feel more connected. As highlighted in our mid-term report, we had previously spoken more about carers involved in our Befriending service and not on our activity and peer support projects. Carers matched with a befriender tell us that this relationship continues to have a positive impact on their lives, relieving stress, reducing isolation and increasing their social networks. Carer Polly told us. ‘Befriending has made the world more open for me. It’s great having another woman’s input. I’ll put on a nicer dress on the day that Helena is coming. I am more active now and will get up more and make coffee etc. I feel better in myself.’
Terry is a 65-year old man who lives with and cares for his elderly parents who are in their late 80’s. Terry has long term mental health issues and is under the care of the Community Mental Health Team. Terry experiences acute loneliness and isolation. His mental health condition and home-based caring role both contribute to his feeling of being on the sidelines of society, without the skills or time to participate in community life. Terry is matched with former carer, Geoff, who lived with, and cared for, his own father for many years. Geoff is tolerant, patient and kind. Geoff has attended a range of training to support his role including first aid and mental health first aid for carers. Geoff ensures that Terry has regular contact with the outside world and has introduced Terry to the Carers Hub Male Carers Support Group. Terry tells us that this makes him feel ‘normal’ and reduces his stress levels. Befrienders who are former carers bring a level of insight and understanding that is invaluable. Geoff understands the loneliness experienced by a grown-up only child caring for elderly parents. He can also provide assurance that help exists. It has helped the process of Terry feeling valued and understood and provided essential advice.
25 carers will have time out from their caring role outwith their home environment doing something of their choosing with a befriender.
50 + carers enjoyed time out from their caring role in the company of a volunteer befriender or by attending meaningful activities at the Carers Hub. In some cases, their loved one benefited from a volunteer befriender, allowing them some guilt-free time for themselves. In 2017-18 the Carers Hub offered in excess of 2800 older carer activity places and around 1600 hours of volunteer befriending.
Ivy cares for her husband Ged. The couple share a passion for gardening and the outdoors however Ged is now wheelchair-bound. Ivy cannot cope outdoors with him due to her own deteriorating mobility. She struggled to come to terms with Ged’s condition and the loss of the retirement plans they made together. She found the caring role frustrating and repetitive and missed the sense of freedom she and Ged enjoyed through their love of the outdoors. She felt trapped and resentful for having negative feelings. A befriender was allocated to the couple to allow them to visit the Carers Hub allotment at Shettleston Community Growing Project. Both feel a sense of renewed contentment. Ivy and Ged’s befriender has smoothed their relationship while being sensitive enough to give them space to have time on their own. Ivy also enjoys the occasional break via our monthly walking group. She says ‘the countryside lifts me emotionally and mentally – I feel more energetic and healthy. I am a better person for Ged to be around now’.
25 carers will have been offered the additional support of the Hub – info & advice/support groups/social events etc
Our befriending service has also acted as a bridge for older carers to access other Hub services. 50+ older carers have not only been offered, but have benefited from additional supports of the Carers Hub. We find that the majority of older carers who enjoy a break from their caring role also go on to access other services, including dementia surgery, power of attorney/guardianship advice, grants and funds, energy advice, lifestyle coaching and 1:1 counselling.
Molly is a carer for her husband, George and her mother, Iris, who is 90 years old. Both suffer from multiple long-term conditions. Molly herself has deteriorating health caused by arthritis, hearing impairment and anxiety and stress. Molly confided in her befriender, Janie, that debt was at the root of her anxiety. She found it impossible to manage on her low household income. Janie referred Molly back to the Carers Hub for benefits advice and help to complete a number of forms. The result was that both she and George were awarded Attendance Allowance and Carers Allowance. As their circumstances had changed they were now entitled to Pension Credit Guarantee Credit which in turn meant they qualified for full housing benefit and council tax credit. Molly and George’s monthly income increased by over £1500. In addition, they no longer had to pay for dental work or glasses and had access to the Scottish Welfare Fund for help with household items. Molly also received a backdated payment of £2000 which she used to pay off her debt. Molly reports; ‘The increase in our benefits has turned my life around. I’m now able to pay my bills, buy food and heat my home without worrying. I can also now afford the odd treat for myself and my family which gives me a tremendous amount of pleasure. I feel so much less stressed and feel better about myself. I feel much more supported in my role and less isolated . . . and I have new teeth and glasses!’ Molly continues to access a range of activities within the Hub including mindfulness and tai chi and is a regular attender at the evening support group.