Revive & Thrive
A story by Include Us
We delivered Revive & Thrive a Dumfries-based programme of creative workshops and activities to enable unpaid carers to have mindful time out from their caring role. Carers build peer support connections and learn new skills to support their wellbeing.
What Revive & Thrive did
Using our "Bothy" (outdoor learning space) set within our natural pocket woodland park, we delivered a programme of 4 weeks each of yoga, mindfulness and Qi Gong. These wellbeing sessions catered for those of all abilities from gentle chair-based exercise to more physically challenging options. Coffee and reflection time followed each session giving participants a safe space to share worries, experiences between sessions and build peer connections.
Feedback each week showed steady improvements in carers ability to relax between sessions using techniques learned. We also delivered 12 activity workshops/events for unpaid carers (and sometimes also the person they care for). The programme ran from the beginning of April to the end of September 2023, (avoiding the coldest/wettest months over winter to ensure maximum uptake).
Some activities were repeated based on demand with the final programme consisting of Pyrography (decorative wood burning) x 2, Dot painting x 2, Crochet for beginners x 2, Macramé Wall Art x 2, Glass decoupage x 1, Button Bouquets x 1, Reflexology and Self-care x 1 and a Coronation Party event. In addition to the programme detailed we delivered 3 drop-in sessions where carers continued to work on craft projects. These drop-in sessions will be rolled out monthly next year.
Beneficiaries were predominantly adult carers attending alone but the Coronation Party was attended mostly by carers and the person they cared for. We promoted sessions online, on social media, via care and disability/mental health/dementia organisations and within the park itself and this was reflected in the diverse scope of carer experiences of those participating.
The programme delivered met the Creative Breaks' principles as it was mutually beneficial to carers and the person cared for and added value to their lives by providing quality time out-with caring. The programme was personalised and targeted with content based on carer feedback and resource packs distributed to those interested who were unable to make it to a session. The programme's evaluation also developed knowledge and understanding of carer issues and needs.
What Include Us has learned
We have learned that many in most need of support are least able to access it. The difficulty of their caring role and lack of respite means they simply can't attend activities or breaks. One carer we engage with almost missed her father's funeral due to lack of respite cover availability for her complex care situation at home.
Another is not only a carer for her adult son, but now has elderly parents requiring her care. Having activity packs available for those who couldn't make it along to a session is a step in the right direction but how many more families are struggling and not accessing any support. Working within an inclusive public space, based in central Dumfries means we can engage with people, daily, from diverse backgrounds and situations. Chatting about what we do often identifies others who would benefit from a break and it is rewarding when that results in signposting support options and them joining in our programme.
We have also learned that sometimes people want to do an activity they enjoyed again and it doesn't always have to be something we haven't offered before. The dot painting is an example. It is always popular and can be tweaked to meet new and familiar participants. Last year we did an introduction to dot stone painting, this year the same technique was adapted to work on wooden blanks and ceramic coasters. Gathering feedback from participants at every session about activities they would like to try is a great support to project planning and developing new short break activities.
We have found partnership working essential. Being able to network with and share opportunities with multiple organisations and agencies is vital if we are to reach new families. We now can see patterns in the type of activities that attract specific demographics of carers and ensure our programme offers something attractive to all these groups.
How Include Us has benefitted from the funding
We have been approached by other groups and organisations who have seen coverage of sessions we have delivered to carers and wanted us to deliver workshops for their client group. Our experience delivering this programme via Creative Breaks funding has enabled us to trial lots of different activity options (that would be transferable to other groups) and fully understand the costs and staffing capacity involved in delivering them. Creative Breaks Funding has also helped us to meet our inclusion goals. It's important to us that the park is inclusive and accessible to all ages and abilities. We already offer activity programmes to children and families and employability and skills training to young people so being funded to reach out to carers helps us to support adults' wellbeing too.
50 carers will have enjoyed mindful time away from their caring role Target 1: 12 activity workshops for carers (and those they care for if preferred) Target 2: 12 weeks (3 blocks) of wellbeing activities
This outcome was fully met with a programme of 12 activity workshops and 3 blocks of wellbeing activities delivered to 64 unpaid carers (and, if preferred, the person they care for). Feedback from all sessions was positive, revealing sessions were friendly, welcoming and a beneficial break from their caring role. In addition 3 drop-in sessions for carers increased the opportunity to have a mindful break from caring.
Susan attended the yoga wellbeing block on her own having been seeking a suitable yoga class, she remarked how relieved she was to have been made welcome. Over the 4 weeks of the block she opened up to the group about her caring role and own mental health issues. Although initially reticent to try crafts, other yoga group members encouraged Susan to come along and try other activities. Susan attended almost all the remaining activities and provided feedback that she felt emotional about how accepted she had felt despite her own diagnosis and how time away from the person she cares for had given her more to talk about to them and she found herself feeling less irritable.
50 carers will feel less isolated as a result of this programme. Target 1: Activities will give time and space for informal chat and networking Target 2: Facilitators and staff will introduce new attendees and support conversation and connection between participants
This outcome was also fully met. All 64 participants responded that they felt less isolated as a result of the Revive & Thrive programme. Every session included informal chat and inclusion of all so no one would feel left out. New participants were welcomed with staff introducing them to the group and being mindful of seating so new attendees were next to those most confident to engage and support newcomers. When details were known about their personal caring situation, staff supported connection with others in a similar situation. This was always done in a way that did not breach confidentiality of participants.
Laura is an elderly lady caring for someone with mental health issues. They moved to the region to be closer to family but with their own busy working patterns and children to care for, she was feeling more isolated than ever and felt helpless about how to best support her loved one. She was worried she was also too dependent on her daughter for support. She had been recommended to come along to a carer session in the park and contacted us for more information. We were able to signpost her to other support agencies and organisations and ensured a volunteer with specific expertise in mental health was on hand to provide guidance and peer support. With a similar professional background and life experiences, they got along well. Laura hasn't been able to come along to many of the sessions since due to issues with transport and numerous health appointments for her loved one. However, she has kept in contact with us via email, and is regularly in contact with the volunteer she got to know. Feedback indicates she now has a stronger support system in place and feels less isolated than before. She is also keen to get along to further activity sessions with us and we ensure she is personally contacted with opportunities.
50 beneficiaries will report improved mental or physical wellbeing following our activities Target 1: 12 social, fun and engaging activity sessions Target 2: 12 weeks (over 3 blocks) of wellbeing activities
This outcome was also fully met. All 64 carer beneficiaries reported improvements in their wellbeing as a result of the sessions. All reported immediate sense of improved mental wellbeing following sessions with feedback such as: "Such a laugh. Really lifted my mood" and "Thanks for such a fun time. I wasn't sure if I would come today but I am glad I forced myself to get out. I feel much better for it". Others recorded improvements over a period of time. This was especially the case with the mindfulness sessions. All participants revealed improvements in quality of sleep following mindfulness sessions. Some also noted better pain control and energy in the week between sessions.
Mel has chronic pain and is also a carer for her son who has mental health issues. Life at home has been difficult and her energy, mood and pain was getting worse as a result. She was too lethargic and pained to go up and down stairs to bed and had been sleeping on her couch. She found herself retreating more, avoiding socialising and struggling to cope with the demands of her caring role. She had heard mindfulness was good for sleep issues and felt she should try. Mel reported noticeable improvements, first in her sense of relaxation and quality of sleep, then also in her pain level and positivity. She continued the techniques herself at home and gets some benefit but feels they work even better when the mindfulness practice is guided by someone else. She and others discussed the possibility of paying for mindfulness sessions in addition to those accessed via Revive and Thrive. This is evidence of how beneficial they have found the programme.