Older Carers Befriending & Wellbeing Project
A story by Glasgow East End Community Carers
The Carers Hub provided an Older Carers Befriending and Well-being Project as one of our range of services. Carers aged 65+ living in Glasgow’s East End were supported to access breaks from their caring role via our volunteer befriending service and broad range of meaningful social/well-being activities
What Older Carers Befriending & Wellbeing Project did
Our Volunteer Befriending Service provided befriending to carers age 65+ who, due to their high tariff caring role and/or their own health conditions, had become isolated and disconnected from their local community. Many had lost confidence and had little or no time to pursue new social contacts.
Our service matched trained volunteers with carers or, in some cases, the cared for person giving older carers weekly socialisation and a safe route back into community life.
Carers matched with a befriender tell us that this relationship positively impacted their lives – relieving stress, reducing isolation and increasing their social network, helping them to cope longer and better. The befriending service also increases self-esteem, trust and the likelihood that carers will engage with Hub staff for advice, benefits services, emotional support and workshops.
Our well-being activities and peer support groups offer carers the opportunity to form new friendships, re-establish past interests and to increase their resilience. Our activities include a weekly drop-in cafe, monthly vintage high tea with entertainment, male carers group, Tai Chi, mindfulness, allotment, outdoor groups and a range of mind-&-body 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.
We found that older carers who lost confidence and became isolated over time, responded best to the 1:1 support offered by a befriender. Others gained more from the conversation and life sharing they got while attending activities and peer groups. We invested in our volunteers though careful recruitment and appropriate in-house training. We provided ongoing support & supervision to volunteers and conducted quarterly reviews with carers.
What Glasgow East End Community Carers has learned
Volunteer Befriending Service, feedback from participants in our volunteer befriending project and in groups including Healthy for Longer has led us to consider a feasibility study around offering meaningful activity to dementia sufferers in the home. Many older carers report not getting space to be themselves within their own home to maintain friendships in person/by phone, undertake pastimes like reading, knitting, creative crafts or gardening. We aim to evolve services in line with carer needs and to look more flexibly at the service volunteers may offer.
Evaluation Methods, we have learned to vary our evaluation styles and to offer a mix of personal and group feedback opportunities. Older carers often lack concentration and may suffer from evaluation-fatigue. We are more mindful to introduce visual methods in consultation and reporting and to offer support to complete forms where necessary. Carers provide fuller and more valuable qualitative feedback when involved in group or 1:1 sharing. Trusting relationships are important when motivating older carers to evaluate a service and they are more likely to participate when they can see their views are contributing to real change.
Health Improvement; 91% of our older carers report an improvement in their emotional well-being following engagement with our health and well-being activities versus a 55% improvement in physical well-being. We found that our older carers prefer a gender-centric approach when it comes to some physical health improvement services. We now offer a health-focused group just for women to explore health from a female perspective. This has been highly successful with 20 regular attendees over the last three months.
In the past activities that have been mixed sex have had a higher drop-out rate for the male carers and they also tend to be reluctant to participate in classes led by female practitioners. With this in mind, we recently ran a pilot session and invited a male Tai Chi instructor along to our monthly Male Carers Support Group to provide a Tai Chi & Chi Gong taster. This is now an established group with 10 regular older male carer attendees well attended. We now understand how to tailor delivery to address the barriers to older male carer participation.
Older Carers Caring for Adult Children; we identified, with the help of our Steering Group, that many of our older carers of grown-up children would benefit from access to their peers due to their unique set of experiences and challenges. The group has been involved in the design of the service and has engaged in planning lunches and getting-to-know-you respite outings to Loch Lomond.
How Glasgow East End Community Carers has benefitted from the funding
In 2018-19, Creative Breaks funding allowed us to significantly improve health and well-being outcomes in an area of disadvantage by allowing us to fill 3500 carer activity spaces to carers 65+. Our 30+ options for activity breaks are not otherwise available to older carers in this area. We are better able to support and complement our local statutory and third sector partners by information sharing, joint working and provision of onward support services post-diagnosis. Local partners see the work funded by Creative Breaks as an essential local service. Parkview Resource Centre (NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde) say the following ‘Patients and carers are offered ongoing support from Glasgow East End Community Carers Hub this can include all aspects of need that a person may require in their journey with dementia. All staff from Parkview regularly use the service as part of a patient’s post-diagnostic support. It is vital to help local people cope with potential changes and stress. This service combats the problem of isolation for carers and patients as they get older.’ 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 Scotland. As shown above, our professional partnerships and recognition of the quality of our services have been strengthened by Creative Breaks funding we have worked with local statutory and voluntary partners Services including Parkview Mental Health Resource Centre 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 contribute to the long-term presence of Glasgow East End Community Carers Hub.
30 carers and the people they care for will feel less isolated/lonely, better connected within the community and will feel more positive about their lives.
Approximately 70 older carers reported an improvement in overall well-being while 64 of those also felt more connected and less isolated. This year, older carers have utilised 3500 spaces across groups, activities and befriending service. Carers tell us "Long may this place run! We’re in good company you meet all different types of people with one common connection. I love the monthly social, I love to watch people enjoying themselves" "Since coming here my life has changed we’re all one family. This is my second family" "Outsiders don’t understand we can relate to one another." Carers linked to our befriending service tell us that the relationships formed have been life-changing. Whether the carer or the cared-for-person has the befriender, the carer benefits by getting a break that fits their needs by relieving stress, reducing isolation and increasing their social networks.
N.B. All names have been changed to protect anonymity. Brian has cared for wife Moira for 6 years following her brain haemorrhage. Moira is paralysed down one side and has Acquired Brain Injury. Brian attended the Carers Hub in the past and decided to attend our open day in May 2019 with Moira. Following conversations with staff and peers, Brian realised that there were new services that he could engage with. He began attending our Male Carers Group and as his trust grew he opened up to the group about his struggle with mental health. Brian attended MOT4Men’s visit to the Carers Hub. Staff noticed that he was sweating, talking rapidly and that his blood pressure was extremely high. Brian made an appointment to see his GP and was subsequently prescribed medication for an un-diagnosed condition. Brian went on to attend our successful Men Only Tai Chi pilot with a male instructor. It is now an established activity attended regularly by 10 older male carers. Brian says the Tai Chi has had a big impact on his life, "I love it, my mind has calmed right down, when I am starting to get stressed I now practice my breathing" "In addition to feeling less stressed, Jim says that the Tai Chi class gives him something to look forward to every week." "He feels part of something and when he walks into the room people will say ‘Hello Brian’. He says ‘as a carer, that is an amazing feeling’, to know that you can talk to other people and you have something in common" Brian advises that there has been a huge knock-on effect since attending Tai Chi. He feels calmer and less stressed, his headaches have subsided and he has not needed to take the Valium that he had been prescribed. He has also been eating better and “had three vegetarian days last week”. As Brian’s well-being has improved, he says that has also affected how he sees and engages with his community. He has more energy and is in a better mindset and more open to things. He has recently begun working with a local Housing Association to enable change in his community. Brian says that his family has noticed a difference in him, and because he does feel calmer his relationship with Moira has improved. He no longer gets as angry or frustrated with her or his caring role. Brian feels attending the Tai Chi has helped him with his confidence. Before attending the class, he was anxious about leaving Moira and wasn’t sure if going out to something on his own was something he could do. Now, with the help of our replacement care service for Moira he sees that she is also getting time to be herself. Brian is now open to attending other activities for himself and has spoken about what he would like to do in the future, and what possibilities were now available to him. He said he would love to enrol in further education as he left school with no qualifications and would love to be able to study history and debate/discuss it with others in an academic environment. He has prompted his peers to think about further education and as a result the group has a session planned with a local college guidance adviser. Brian says ‘All the baggage and negativity is gone, I look forward to getting up in the morning now’.
30 older carers and the people they care for will have benefited from time away from the day-to-day caring relationship participating in activities of their choosing with the support of a volunteer or paid-for befriender.
Approximately 70 older carers participated in one or more of 30 activities and peer group opportunities on offer at the Carers Hub including the chance to take time out from caring in the company of a volunteer befriender. In 2018-19 the Carers Hub offered approximately 3500 older carer activity places and around 1650 hours of volunteer befriending. Carers were consulted to ensure that all breaks continue to be meaningful and appropriate to them. Breaks were designed to support older carer physical, mental, emotional and creative preferences including; Tai chi, walking groups, sailing, allotment gardening, life story work, art therapy, arts & crafts, massage, beauty therapy, yogability, mindfulness, balancing breath. Monthly social event, trips & outings, social kitchen. "The Hub has given me a purpose and routine and an impetus to get up and be active again. It helps me feel connected and valued."
N.B. All names have been changed to protect anonymity. Vic cares for wife, Bea, who is wheelchair-bound due to strokes and CADASIL. Bea depends on Vic and home care support for personal care and daily living needs. Vic attends Hub events such as our monthly social and weekly carers café. Vic also enjoys attending the outdoor group (country walks and sailing) and replacement care had been provided on these occasions however, due to lack of continuity, Bea was unable to develop meaningful relationships with the care workers. As Bea is introverted and shy and it can take her a while to get to know someone and feel relaxed in their company. By being introduced to our volunteer befriending service, Bea could form a meaningful relationship. We matched Bea with a befriender whose personality compliments hers well. Volunteer June is chatty and outgoing and asks Bea about herself and her preferences. June began by giving Bea a regular manicure and as Bea grew more comfortable with June, Vic started to take them to the Forge, to window shop and share a coffee together. This gave Vic a couple of hours to himself. He can now attend our carers café or receive a massage. Vic shares the following "June was in with Bea and they got talking about cushions and soft furnishings" Bea got quite excited about getting some new things for the house and so Vic took them to The Range and said later that Bea was ‘chuffed’ that she has been able to go with another woman and pick out the things she liked. June has also accompanied Bea to buy birthday presents for nieces and nephews and this has had a positive effect on Bea’s self-esteem as she has some independence back as an active participant in family occasions. Vic comments on the trusting relationship he has formed with Hub staff and the effect that June has had on his life; "She brightens things up for me, she goes that extra mile and takes a lot of pressure off me. It’s the girly things that Bea enjoys with her, it’s good for her having another woman to talk to. I went to pick them up at the Forge the other day and they were sitting giggling, it’s a nice feeling to see Bea’s wee face lit up” Volunteer June says ‘It gives me pleasure to spend time with Bea and know I’m giving Vic a break. I know that when I am there, I make a difference and everyone is happy.’
30 carers will feel re-energised through breaks from caring and will have benefited from additional support offered by The Carers Hub, e.g. information and advice, help to navigate statutory and third sector pathways, opportunities to have their voice heard & access to specialist clinics & training.
Approximately 70 older carers report having benefited from attending an average of 6 out of 470 meeting possibilities across 30 activities/groups (including befriending). We find that the majority of our older carers (90%+) access additional support with form-filling, benefits & legal advice, grants, counselling, training and workshops which help them sustain their caring role. Older carers tell us that they prefer to access additional help within the Carers Hub where possible. They cite a number of reasons for this including having built up a trusting, ongoing relationship with staff and feeling part of a community. In evaluation, many carers will use the word ‘safe’ (unprompted) to describe how they feel about coming to the Hub.
N.B. All names have been changed to protect anonymity. Jan met our staff at her local NHS Dementia Resource Centre where husband, Norrie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Jan began to attend our dementia group and went on to our Life Story Workshop, where made a life story book documenting Norrie’s life. She now uses this as a resource to connect with him and calm him when he is flustered. In addition to the creative and practical skills learned while creating the book, Jan enjoyed sharing and support of her peers and would often speak fondly of Norrie, describing his humour and how he was always the ‘life and soul of any party’. Jan was supported to attend with the help of family and some replacement care provided by the Carers Hub. Recently, Jan and Norrie attended our monthly social where they happened to reconnect with old friends. After lunch, Norrie began singing along with the entertainer who handed him the mic. Norrie thoroughly enjoyed entering into the spirit of things allowing Jan to see a glimpse of the Norrie she married. Norrie and Jan then got up to dance and were able to participate without judgement. Jan was able to enjoy her time out as a wife, rather than a carer, knowing she was in a safe environment where Norrie would be supported. Jan reported how much she and Norrie had enjoyed the social and that she was delighted to be able to relax and have a break from caring with Norrie. Jan said "It’s so good to have somewhere we can go together. John has been asking when we can go back" "I now has a much better understanding of dementia and how it affects not only Norrie but also me". She admits that sometimes she gets frustrated by Norrie repeating the same questions, but being able to share this with her peers or by speaking 1:1 with our dementia adviser helps her cope with it and puts the situation into perspective. Jan was referred to our Information and Advice worker who helped with benefits and form-filling with the result that, as a couple they benefited from an increase in Norrie’s Attendance Allowance and the addition of Carers Allowance for Jan. The couple has now been referred for free legal advice via the Solicitors for Older People service. Jan says, ‘I can’t believe how much our lives have changed. I didn’t know all this existed.’
Additional project outcome
Volunteers will benefit from increased learning and development through training opportunities, community engagement and managing relationships with carers and staff. 10 volunteers reported increased confidence, sense of self-worth and broader skill-set than before.
N.B. All names have been changed to protect anonymity. Ally is a former carer having cared for her mum for 13 years prior to contacting the Carers Hub to become a volunteer befriender. She had to give up retail work in 2003 due to her caring role and hadn’t been employed since then. As a result, her confidence had taken a knock and she felt out of touch and disconnected from the outside world. Ally she felt she had something to offer other families, as she had lived through many of the challenges faced by unpaid carers. She thought this would be a positive step to re-engaging with the community and increasing her skills in the hope of re-entering the workplace. Before starting her befriending role, Ally successfully completed our training programme covering topics such as Safeguarding, Communication and Professional Boundaries. Ally was matched with Nora who was isolated due to poor mobility (she uses a mobility scooter when out). They hit it off immediately and Ally quickly gained Nora’s confidence, developing a genuine bond. Nora tells us that she values Ally’s honesty. An example, when out shopping recently Nora tried on some trousers. Ally was confident enough in her relationship with Nora to tell her they didn’t really suit her. Nora chose an alternative pair which Ally said suited her better. Nora valued Ally’s honesty and when Ally told her the second pair looked nice, Nora felt good as she knew this was genuine. Nora also has very bad arthritis and on several occasions requested that she and Ally stay in. On these occasions they always found enjoyable ways to pass their time - Ally helps Nora untangle and sort out her jewellery. Ally said she really enjoyed these occasions as pieces of jewellery would trigger Nora’s memory and she would tell Ally about her past and the things she and husband Johnny had done. Nora had lived in South Africa and Ally enjoyed hearing about this, and felt that she learned a lot from both Nora and Johnny. Ally says "the time goes by really quickly, there is always something to talk about. I learned so much from Nora and Johnny, they have led such interesting lives". Ally’s confidence has grown and she has now secured a part-time job. The Carers Hub was able to provide her a reference that highlighted her character attributes and the range of skills that she had gained and developed whilst volunteering as a befriender. Ally was able to work around her new job in order to continue volunteering. Nora says ‘This service is a godsend to me. It has made the world more open for me, it’s great having another woman’s input. We have a genuine bond.’