Older Carers Befriending & Support Service
A story by Glasgow East End Community Carers
We provided weekly befriending sessions for Carers aged 60 years + who due to their high caring role combined with their own health issues had become increasingly isolated, disconnected from their local community and suffering from high levels of stress with little or no time for themselves.
What Older Carers Befriending & Support Service did
We provide weekly befriending to older carers to allow them time out from their caring role doing something for themselves. We initially spent time creating the training manual for Befriending Older Carers. This is a 6 session course that raises the self awareness of any potential befriender and covers limits and Boundaries, Communication Skills, Challenging Values and Attitudes etc and equips them to get alongside older carers. This was followed by putting operational processes and procedures in place. The training was received well by the befrienders and evaluation forms are used on completion of the course.
Those matched with a befriender tell us that the relationships continue to have a positive impact on their lives relieving stress, reducing isolation and increasing their social network, improving relationships, their mental health and helping them to cope longer and better with the people they care for. The Befriending Service has also acted like a bridge to other Hub services such as support groups, drop-in café, dementia clinic and health and well-being activities.
One of our carers is enjoying attending football matches and meeting up with other carers. He tells us this makes him feel 'normal' for a while and has significantly reduced his stress levels. Another meets with his befriender and goes fishing weekly when the weather permits. The befriender tells us that he physically sees the carer relaxing as he begins to fish. Another carer who was in the Navy enjoys spending time with his befriender because both have a shared interest in history and historical sites around Glasgow.
We have been able to establish positive links with a number of other organisations that are helpful to the older carers including Parkview Mental Health Resource Centre, Parkhead Citizens Advice Bureau, Govan Community Law Centre, Alzheimers Scotland, local Community Connectors, Lightburn Hospital and Kelvin College.
Befrienders who were formerly carers have been enjoying working with other carers and have shown a depth of understanding and care that has been so invaluable. It has helped some of them to move on and feel valued.
The service provides someone to sit with his wife which allows him to enjoy meeting his befriender on a weekly basis without worrying about his wife and her safety. His participation in the befriending service acted like a bridge to other Hub services, he initially attended the weekly Tai Chi class to help him manage his stress and from this started to come along to our Monthly Walking Group. He had been a keen hillwalker in the past and he welcomed the opportunity to re-engage with a much loved interest and get some time away from caring.
Both he and his wife also attend the Monthly Social every month and they both benefit from doing something together and the opportunity to meet and socialise with other people. His weekly outings with his befriender remain a highlight of the week. J and his befriender go to various places of historical interest which allows J to reminisce about his time serving in the Navy. J has several health issues himself and now feels close enough to his befriender to share these concerns.
Since attending the male carers support group he has made some other carer friends who understand his position however he had been unable to develop the relationships away from the Hub due to his 24/7 caring role. J didn’t need a befriender for himself but has benefited from the befriender spending quality time chatting, doing an activity and caring for his wife allowing him to enjoy time away from his caring role.
Now J looks forward to this weekly time spent following his football team and having some designated time to spend with other like minded men.
A befriender was matched with V and they immediately 'hit it off' with both stating that they really enjoyed each others company. V was matched with a befriender who was a former carer and truly understood the issues affecting her. She was able to relate well and provide sound advice and support helping her to look at and explore options. Both like to go shopping and go for coffee and spend hours talking together.
Initially V needed personal home care to allow her to access befriending but since her mothers death she has continued to meet with the befriender who has helped her through the grief process. V tells us that her confidence has increased and that the befriender has encouraged her to participate in more activities out with her home. She now comes to some of the social events and has made some friends at the support group.
What Glasgow East End Community Carers has learnedAn unexpected challenge we found was training potential befrienders who's first language was not English. The course is quite comprehensive and is a large 'wordy' manual. It was created this way so that all befrienders will have all the information they need and because it is used for reference during support and supervision.
However this proved difficult for two students who were Albanian and were struggling to understand much of the course work both potential volunteers dropped out of the course after 3 weeks. In order to combat this we took advice from the Volunteer Centre and now state in my adverts that a good grasp of the English language is required for the post. Additionally it would have been very difficult to place either of them in a suitable befriending relationship.
An unexpected benefit that has been encouraging is the number of former carers (6) who have become befrienders. They have been through such caring journeys themselves that they are able to share their experience and bring an additional layer of understanding to the relationships. They have all stated that they feel they get as much out of the relationship as they give to the carers they support.
The carers are matched with a befriender and they meet weekly to chat or pursue an activity this allows the carer time away from their home and caring role. It helps them de-stress, off-load their concerns and focus on themselves for a few hours. The funding lets us put in a home care worker to allow this to happen and the beauty is it gives the cared for person time with another to enjoy different stimulation. The knock on effects are improved health and well-being for the carer which helps them to continue longer in their caring role.
Going forward we have recognised that not all carers see themselves as needing a befriender but would benefit by the cared for having a befriender thus allowing the carer to have time away from the caring role to pursue their own interest knowing that their loved one is also benefiting from the stimulation of having someone they can relate too. Therefore we identified supporting 3 distinct types of carers, carers isolated and needs befriending support to get out, carers isolated and needs befriending support to get out and ‘home support’ for ‘cared for’ and carers that have established links through Hub so don’t need direct befriending but need befriender for cared for to allow them to access social activity for themselves. This will allow us to reach more carers in need of this type of befriending support.