Stepping Out - Remote & Rural Breaks for Carers
A story by Care for Carers
The project involved taking groups of carers to rural and remote rural parts of Scotland to take part in a supported residential short break. Activities included Forest Walks, Astronomy, Art Workshops, Village Hall Cinema nights, Singing and music, Island tours and exploring the area.
What Stepping Out - Remote & Rural Breaks for Carers did
Creative Breaks funding supported us to provide places for 21 carers on rural and remote rural breaks. It supported a range of activities from rural walks, Enchanted Forest experience, to island exploration, Singing, music and art sessions to supporting carers to join in Astronomy activities.
Due to Covid19 restrictions only 2 of the planned rural/remote rural breaks took place before the 23rd of March 2020, these were: October 2019 Pitlochry
November 2019 Isle of Coll, 21 carers took part in these breaks. The remaining 7 carer places were going to take part in the Isle of Lismore break which had been planned for May 2020. Instead of this the remaining funding has been spent on staff time to support carers who would have been taking part in our Stepping Out programme for 2020, all of which had to be cancelled due to Covid19.
The break in Pitlochry coincided with the International Observe the Moon Night. Astronomer tutors were able to engage the group in Lunar related activities which was really well received. The great thing about this activity was that many of the group had never taken part in any astronomy or science related activities before. Feedback was that they were amazed and thrilled to have taken part and for some it had spiked a new interest.
The Enchanted Forest trip was very well received, walking out in the colourful forest at night with all the group was a unique experience for many of the carers. Coll is just magical, every time! Carers loved the island exploration journeys we planned, lead by a local community worker, they felt like they were taken into local stories and secrets! Astronomy and related activities took place, day time solar telescope work and night time star gazing and galaxy searching.
However, the feedback is always about how meeting locals, making friends, eating together and spending social time in a small group has been really important. As is having taken part in something new and therefore having something different to talk about with the cared for person when they get home.
25% of the carers taking part were new to the service and over 70% of the carers have no other break in the year for themselves.
What Care for Carers has learned
We have learnt that these remote rural breaks consistently improve carers mental health and wellbeing at a time when we continue to see a rise in carer anxiety (and this was before Covid19 arrived). It is a completely different experience , carers who come may never have been in such a remote setting but something in them is attracted to the idea and that then blooms when they get there.
This area of our Short Break provision attracts more male carers, with typically 40% of the group being male on each of the breaks. This is a much higher rate than on any of our other break offers. During Covid19 we have had more contact with some of these male carers who may not have contacted us for a talk if they had not got to know us on the break prior to Covid19 happening.
We see improvement scores across all of our outcome indicators for this service from carers evaluation returns. However, there is still a slower improvement or change in relation to the loneliness measures. This happens regardless of how positive the other improvements have been and has really evidenced for us how deeply embedded the sense of loneliness and isolation is in carers. Where we see these responses most we do get carers asking for a longer break, so we will be testing this out with next years funding to see if having that additional night away helps to shift that measure a bit more.
This service does attract new carers as well as returning carers, about 25% of the carers who came on the breaks were new. Over 65% of carers on the breaks said it was the only break away they had or themselves on their own.
We are constantly learning in relation to the remote rural work, logistics, travel, partnerships, friends on the islands, engagement with the local community are developed with every trip. Having plan B in place becomes crucial, it doesn't matter what time of year it is, that ferry might not run so you need to be prepared to change plans.
How Care for Carers has benefitted from the funding
Having the evidence from Creative Breaks funded breaks has definitely been helpful in levering in more funding from other sources. It allows them to sign up to something that is tried and tested. Creative Breaks funding has allowed us to try out all kinds of new breaks, new venues and locations with the knowledge it might not always work out exactly as planned. It has really helped us to develop our services and to grow as an organisation. We have been able develop really positive partnerships and connections with the remote communities we work in. Resulting in our activities and events being shaped in a different way, we have connected with local peoples knowledge and skills and are building up contacts to have local people working with us. When we bring specialists to the islands, whether that is astronomers or scientists we always ask them to give a session or workshop to the local community and this has been really well received. Taking groups to remote rural locations is challenging but Creative Breaks funding has enabled us to test it out and it works brilliantly so before Covid19 hit we were planning return trips but also to make links with other partners in remote rural locations which are new to us so we could expand the options, activities and offers to carers.
75% of carers who take part in the service will report having improved wellbeing as a result of coming on the break.
We have achieved our outcomes with over 75% of carers taking part in the breaks reporting improved wellbeing. Over 75% of the carers taking part in the breaks reported that they had had a positive experience, had made new friends, felt less stressed and more confident. Peer support in a group-based experience has been highly rated. The breaks being organised and staffed was also a positive marker for carers. Carer Comments ‘I am a stressed person but I have not felt stressed on this weekend trip’ ‘This has given me confidence in myself as I have been out of my comfort zone. It has also motivated me to help others again after being stuck in a rut. Myself and my sister were at breaking point and not getting on as well as usual and this break has made us closer again.’ ‘I felt safe because I knew where the staff were if I needed them. I got to share a room with a total stranger, who I connected with really well so much so that I would call her a friend now.’
H has been accessing C4C services for over 7 years now. The first time she visited our office she appeared extremely nervous, she wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone and spoke very quietly. We were concerned that if she wasn’t able to engage how could we support her as it was clear that she had had to work up the courage to visit the service in the first place showing that she wanted/needed support. A mental health support worker was able to offer her one to one support to build a relationship with our staff and services. H continued to attend events at C4C very slowly she began to speak with staff members. Staff were then able to offer to meet her regularly for one to one emotional support meetings. She attended every planned meeting and began to open up. She had been caring for her mother who has dementia for many years. H’s mum went into long term care, the transition for H was very traumatic; she found it very difficult to cope living on her own and no longer providing care for her mum. She felt very guilty that she could no longer care for her mum; she was constantly worried about the care her mum was receiving within the care home. H had some issues with other family members visiting her mother at the care home. The family were estranged and there was often conflict if they met each other. H asked if a member of C4C staff would come to a multi-disciplinary team meeting with her as she felt intimidated with the other family members being there and she would be on her own. H also has mild learning difficulties and isn’t confident especially around professionals, people she doesn’t know and the family members that would be attending this particular meeting. A member of staff accompanied H to the meeting, staff observed the tension between the family members and in particular how they dismissed H. H had told C4C staff that no other family member had helped her care for her mum. One to one meetings with H were often very emotional during this time; H said she wasn’t sure how she would have coped without this support. After her mother passed away, H was devastated. We met with her once a week, we also provided telephone support. H has a family member with drug and alcohol misuse issues who she has continued to provide support to even while her mother was ill. Since her mother’s death she has struggled with this other caring demand. Overtime we were able to encourage H to begin to attend some of our daybreaks and other services in the city, where she could meet other carers and feel less isolated. Again, she was quiet at first but the other carers showed her warmth and understanding which helped her to be able to open up and engage with the other group members. The group members also encouraged H to apply for a Stepping Out residential break place, they told her about their experience of Stepping Out weekends. H attended her first Stepping Out weekend, she was extremely anxious and nervous about the trip. Staff were aware of how nervous H was so made sure that she was supported, included and well informed about the itinerary of the weekend, who the staff were and the plan for the break. Staff observed a huge difference in H over the weekend, from being very quiet and reserved, by the end of the weekend she was speaking and engaging with other carers and appeared more confident and less nervous. H then began to help her daughter to care for her grand-daughter who has down’s syndrome. She continues to support the family member with drug and alcohol problems but is more able to control her contact with that person. H now has a number of different caring roles. H has told us that Stepping Out is her focal point in the year, she looks forward to that date in the calendar. At the last weekend she attended staff observed the difference in H is very profound. Over the last couple of years she has changed her appearance, she volunteers with various charities, she attends several classes including Indian dance (she first experienced Indian Dance at a workshop at a Stepping Out weekend), C4C worked in partnership with said tutor and provided a 6 week course to carers. H attended every one of these classes and has been a regular to their classes for over 2 years now! She is also going to Yoga classes and it is clear she is taking care of herself. At the last Stepping Out weekend she was on she made 4 new friends, they have all continued to meet each other twice a week. They have requested this year to come back on a Stepping Out break together. H is now a happy, confident woman. The journey she has experienced has been long and hard. It has been an absolute privilege and joy to watch this carer grow.
75% of the carers taking part will report having had a positive break for themselves away from their caring situation with their peer group.
We have achieved this outcome with over 75% of carers who took part in the breaks reporting that they had had a positive break, felt recharged and rested, had learnt something new and had fun. The remote breaks and the Astronomy breaks on Coll have more male carers taking part and the smaller group sizes mean it is easier for them to bond with others. ‘I have had a great break and feel recharge from being able to switch off and sleep a bit better. I don’t know the last time I have felt like I have from this break.’ ‘Although this isn’t the only break that I get for myself it is the only one that I don’t have to plan, formulate and carry out with other people. It is very isolating being a carer and holidaying alone.’ ‘I think I have now had time to open my eyes to Astronomy, I believe I will continue as learning a bit I see how much I have enjoyed it all. Coming for the first time myself was a big step and everything I did was what I enjoyed. Loved the ferry, workshops, laughter.'
We also had 3 new male carers on this trip to Coll who had not been away on their own previously. One of them, M is a carer for his daughter who has autism. He also has 2 other young children and had not had a break by himself in over 8 years. He was very quiet and tense on arrival (with some doubt I think as to whether he would have been able to come on the break or not.) He was also keen to maintain his fitness and had very little time for this at home. Once on the Island, he decided that he was going to use this opportunity to do as much walking as he could and to explore the Island. He was up early both days and was supplied with a packed lunch (by our accommodation host) after informing us that he might not make it back in time for the afternoon activity. It was obvious that he was a confident walker and very happy and able to go off on his own, although we were able to maintain contact in case of any emergencies. (As part of our risk assessment process for remote rural breaks we do ask all carers to download ViewRanger which has a GPS beacon or What3Words which is the same in-case they get lost or hurt while out alone.) He stayed out for the day and we did not see him until dinnertime. He looked well and relaxed and said how much he appreciated the time on his own as his partner and children were so dependent on him. He really enjoyed taking part in the night time Astronomy events and sharing meals with everybody but having his own time during the day. It was very important for M to not be available to his family, being in a poor mobile reception area was a benefit, although he did get a few phone calls, he felt he wasn’t aware of his phone ringing all the time like it would normally be. His wife and family managed well whilst he was away despite their anxieties and he left feeling reassured and more hopeful that he could take time for himself if needed. When he got home M’s wife was very happy to let us know how good the break had been for M And that he was keen to return the following year. M has gone on to buy a Telescope and has expressed an interest in joining in further Astronomy activities.
75% of carers will report that taking part in the break has helped them to cope with and continue with their caring role
We have met this outcome with over 75% of carers reporting that they feel more confident, have a better understanding of other caring situations, feel recharged and rested and more motivated. Carers tell us how important it is to have time away from their caring situation building new friendships and connections which can then help them once they get home. Carer Comments, ‘It was really good for us both to plan together for this break and involve other members of the family more in caring for the person I care for. I am going home in a positive frame of mind’ ‘something new to talk about. Also good for the people I care for to know that I have a life of my own. I cope better when rested and refreshed.’ ‘I had the best sleep for ages! Meals were great, tasty and served with delight. The island is remote which is a great plus in that it makes respite cover think twice about contacting you! The islanders make you feel very welcome.’ ‘You leave your worries back on the mainland.'