Shetland Carers Creative Breaks
A story by Voluntary Action Shetland
We provided an additional range of breaks for unpaid carers in Shetland to offer time out for themselves, support for their mental and physical health and a chance to connect with other carers.
What Shetland Carers Creative Breaks did
The project supported unpaid carers, living in Shetland, and their cared for persons. Carers over 21 years were able to apply for the massage sessions and counselling sessions over the last 12-month period. Both of these Short Break opportunities were popular. When awarding support, priority was given to those carers whose scores, in return of their mental health and wellbeing questionnaire, were at the high end of need.
We also delivered a luxury afternoon teas event in Lerwick in June 2022, during Carers Week, which was well attended. This event was open to all carers and their cared for persons. Local organisations who provide support to carers and their cared for person (such as Shetland Islands Council's Social Work team, Ability Shetland, Alzheimer's Scotland Shetland and NHS Shetland - all members of Shetland Carers Strategy Group) were invited to this event to have an information stand for carers to find out about their service.
Carers, not currently registered with our service, came forward for the first time and made contact with our service after hearing about the Short Breaks when they were promoted or whilst attending the afternoon teas event. From this engagement a number of new carers registered with us for ongoing support. The absolute highlight was the high-end spec of the Afternoon Teas event. With high quality catering, lovely harp music playing in the background, the room beautifully decorated in addition to the lovely table settings, the feedback received from carers and their cared for person was really great, leaving them feeling that they were being thoroughly spoilt and extremely well looked after - a lovely luxury afternoon.
The advert of the event was also able to promote Carers Week in the wider community throughout Shetland. We also had promotional gift bags which we gave to everyone who attended the afternoon teas event after completion of a short questionnaire. We felt the project aligned well with all five guiding principles. We felt the project went to plan and was a huge success.
What Voluntary Action Shetland has learned
We have learned that the new short breaks activities of counselling and massage were very popular and worthwhile. Carers continue to ask for the opportunity to access counselling sessions and we are hopeful to secure funding for this in the future. Massage sessions continue to be popular, and carers often apply for a Short Break grant to use in this way. We feel that both of these projects should be within reach to carers and included as core delivery of what our service can offer.
We have learned that a successful way of reaching out to new carers is to have some kind of incentive, something attractive on offer to initially catch their attention. The afternoon teas event and gift bags were a great way of doing this which resulted in new carers registering with our service. We also held a prize draw with a gift voucher for a local cafe as the winning prize! Any new carers who registered with us during Carers Week were entered into the draw. This worked really well.
We have learned that partnership working is really important. Both the counselling and massage projects enabled us to make new links within the community and make our service more widely known. We also had different organisations present at the afternoon teas event and carers fed back that this was useful to them as they could chat with the different organisations about key issues whilst attending the teas. It also means that there is more likelihood of being invited to attend other events in the community in the future and for different organisations to refer carers to us too.
How Voluntary Action Shetland has benefitted from the funding
We have been able to provide key breaks for carers where we would not have been able to otherwise. This has been the first time we have been able to offer massage and counselling breaks and these new projects have been popular and extremely worthwhile. Through piloting these projects, we have established new links within the community and made our service more widely known. The afternoon teas session was a key event where we were able to highlight/promote our service alongside Carers Week and link with other organisations within the community who also wanted to take part in the event. All the activities allowed us to engage with new carers who had not sought our help previously, thus increasing awareness in the community of what Shetland Carers does and enabling others to support/signpost carers to access our service.
Carers who have accessed a breakthrough Creative Breaks will have improved wellbeing. Cared for person will benefit from having a more relaxed carer and an opportunity for respite.
We have been able to measure success through their health and wellbeing score before their break and then getting them to complete an online evaluation after their break. 10 people accessed the massage sessions which were offered in blocks of 6 sessions (1 hour session over a 6-week period). 13 people accessed the counselling sessions which was also offered in blocks of 6 x 1-hour sessions. These were booked and suitably spaced out as needed by the individual, with the therapist directly. Previously low scores for people were increased as a result of accessing these Short Breaks. Individuals utilising the massage sessions were more relaxed and were able to de-stress, and those who accessed the counselling sessions were able to access professional support to help discuss issues that were affecting them.
Nancy applied to Shetland Carers when she was at crisis point. She cares for her eldest son, who had a car accident a number of years ago and whom is now physically disabled. As well as working full time, Nancy provides care to her son as much as possible. She provides personal care for her son, carries out all aspects of managing home life including washing, food preparation, managing the home, pets, administration tasks, appointments, transport support, medication, and liaising with professionals. She supports her son with his mental health issues and helps him to manage his anger and grief. The house which Nancy and her son and daughter live in is not suitable for her son's needs. She is the sole earner for the family, and they are struggling with cramped living conditions on top of everything else. Nancy's son has many falls within the house and down the stairs due to his disability. Nancy struggles with trying to allow him to take risks but also being there to support him when he does have a fall. Nancy feels like she is constantly spinning plates trying to keep everything going. She feels she is not only a mother but a counsellor, administrator, banker, personal assistant, mediator, carer and motivator. She is exhausted. Nancy has no one to talk to, no personal network to offload to and is bottling it all up. She feels she puts on a brave face for her son and daughter and tries her best to keep everything going but is not able to anymore. She didn't know what to do and so reached out to Shetland Carers for some support. Shetland Carers were able to register Nancy with their service, provide her with a wealth of information and contacts to support her in her caring role, awarded her a Short Break grant and also offered her the opportunity to access counselling sessions through the Creative Breaks funding. At the end of her counselling sessions Nancy reported that the sessions had really made a difference to her. She discussed that she was at crisis point before she reached out to Shetland Carers, and she really needed someone to speak to. Laurence, the counsellor, was excellent and he helped Nancy to reorganise and reframe her thoughts and assess what the family had been going through. Laurence gave Nancy pointers on resilience tools to develop her own abilities, skills and emotional well-being. He also recommended small manageable tasks and even some excellent books. Nancy stated that she is grateful to have had this opportunity and it has made a huge impact on her life. "The whole process was simple and easy to do. Laurence was superb. It made such an amazing difference to my health and well-being. I didn’t realise what a difference really talking with someone could have. It’s different talking with people that know you, but you don't truly open up. Laurence was impartial and not emotionally attached or expectant of anything off me and it was really refreshing to get a lot of stuff out of my head and look at things with fresh eyes."
More carers will have been able to take a break from caring after using Shetland Carers advice and info service and accessing an activity delivered through our Creative Breaks sessions.
We measured success through the number of carers attending our creative breaks activities: counselling sessions, massage sessions and the Carers Week afternoon teas event. As above, 10 carers accessed the massage sessions, and 13 carers accessed the counselling sessions. Around 60 individuals attended the afternoon teas event, this was a mixture of carers and cared for persons. Had the funding not been available to support the Short Breaks, we would not have been able to offer these Short Breaks or the afternoon tea for carers and cared for people.
Josie applied to Shetland Carers to access massage sessions after hearing about the sessions being available through the Alzheimer's Scotland, Shetland branch's news bulletin. Josie has provided care for her husband, who has cancer and mild dementia, for four years. Josie doesn't sleep well as she has to be up in the night several times with her husband. Josie had always thought of herself as being fairly fit until recently but had begun to wonder if she had suffered a mini stroke, due to her arm being limp and not working correctly. Josie was feeling tired and stressed due to having to be available 24/7 for her husband and her caring role was beginning to take its toll. Josie was able to access 6 x one-hour massage sessions with Babs, the massage therapist. The sessions were arranged directly between Josie and Babs, so that they could take place at a time that best suited Josie. Since applying for the massage sessions, Josie has now registered with Shetland Carers and can access information and advice through them via the quarterly newsletter which is sent out. Josie is also in the process of applying for a Short Break grant which she is hoping to use the money for further massage sessions, should she be successful. Josie commented that the regular massage sessions, and break from her caring role, made a real difference to her and she found a continuing benefit after each session. She found the room and its surroundings very calming, and the massage sessions more than beneficial. Josie said that she looked forward to the sessions coming around and, after each one, she felt refreshed and more able to go back to her caring role. The massage sessions helped relieve her of stress and allowed her to 'get going again' with life. Josie found that her limp arm improved after the block of sessions and so thought it had been more down to overuse of her arm rather than a mini stroke. Since completing her sessions with Babs, Josie has been able to be outside more in her garden, pottering around, feeding the birds and doing small, manageable gardening jobs. She was also able to meet up with a friend for coffee whilst in Lerwick, the main town in Shetland where the massage sessions took place, before catching the bus to return home again. Josie is hopeful to continue these catch ups with her friend if her Short Break grant is successful to enable her to access further massage sessions with Babs. "I would recommend Babs Clubb for massage sessions, it was quiet and relaxing to say the least, l came away feeling calm and rejuvenated."
Carers will be more aware of support available to them by accessing Shetland Carers advice and info service. Carers will be more aware of the importance of taking short breaks to look after their own health and wellbeing. Carers will have increased support networks from attending Carers Week event.
We measured success through more carers registering with Shetland Carers to access advice, support, information and access to Short Breaks. On 1st October 2021 there were 357 carers registered with the service. On 30th September 2022 there are now 435 carers registered. We have also increased our followers during the grant period as follows: Facebook Likes 799 to 1065, Facebook Followers 864 to 1093 and Twitter Followers 207 to 288. Carers who are registered with Shetland Carers receive regular information and advice via email, social media posts, our website and quarterly newsletters, as well as calls to/from the service. Carers are regularly making use of Respitality breaks which are available and are applying for Short Break grants to allow them to take a break from their caring role. Carers who accessed the afternoon teas event were able to socialise together and new friendships/networks were formed and developed.
Sally is a single parent with three children, two of whom have additional support needs. Two of her children are also young carers for their sibling. Sally provides personal care for one of her children, assists with medications, moving around and general daily support. She spends most of her free time emailing, calling, chasing up organisations to help with different needs in school. It can feel like a full-time job for her. Sally finds her caring role stressful and emotionally draining. Sally initially reached out to Shetland Carers to access a Short Break grant and opted for an individual More4Life membership for the local leisure centre. This gives her free access to all facilities for a year and allows her precious time out to relax and benefit her mental health and wellbeing whilst her children are in school and/or respite. She is finding this very beneficial. Sally, along with one of her children, were also offered the opportunity to access two boat trips for a carer and a companion as a Respitality Break. The 2-hour boat trips were donated by a local company Seabirds-and-Seals, and enabled Sally and all her children to go together on the boat trip for a lovely family outing. Sally didn't have to worry about childcare to enable her to go on the boat trip as all three children could also attend. The boat trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all. It gave them a chance to have some time out from their normal routine, to bond, and to enjoy the wonders of Shetland wildlife. Sally came along to the afternoon teas event during Carers Week and was seated beside another carer who has children of a similar age. The two carers got chatting and found they had several things in common! Sally enjoyed speaking to someone else about her caring role, how difficult things can be and having someone there who instantly knew how she felt. The two got on well together and exchanged contact details. Since the afternoon teas event the two families have had regular meet ups - sometimes through events organised by Shetland Carers and sometimes organised between themselves. This has enabled Sally to have something regular to look forward to and a new friend/support network whom she can chat or offload to. Although Sally still finds her caring role challenging and stressful, her pass for the leisure centre has made a huge difference to her mental health and allows her to channel how she is feeling in a positive way. Sally has said she will now make sure she applies for all grants or breaks which she is entitled to as she can see the benefit of these opportunities. Sally is grateful for the opportunity of meeting up with others at the afternoon teas event and has renewed strength to continue in her caring role, from her newfound friendship and regular meet ups, both of which give her the reassurance she is doing a wonderful job and that she is not alone.