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 supported residential breaks. Activities such as Astronomy, Chemistry, Tours, Art Workshops, Village Hall Cinema Nights, Singing, Music and Ceilidhs were available over the course of the breaks.
What Stepping Out Remote Rural Breaks for Carers did
Creative Breaks funding supported us to provide places for 30 adult carers and support activity and staff costs across a range of rural and remote rural breaks this year; October 20018 short break to Monzie near Crieff, April 2019 Isle of Coll, May 2019 Isle of Lismore and September 2019 Isle of Lismore.
The variety of activities on the breaks varied from walking and exploring the area, island tours to Chemistry / Astronomy workshops, moon, sun and stars gazing to spontaneous singing sessions. We joined in a number of local activities which was loved by all the carers, Ceilidhs, Cinema Night in the Village Hall was like being in Local Hero and we were invited to join in craft events and even the First Aid CPR training on the island which carers opted to join, met lots of locals, there was lots of fun and laughter and stories for later were made.
Islanders were also encouraged to join our workshops and they did, so we are getting on first name terms with people. We are so welcomed on Coll and Lismore and even in this short time the local people all know about the carers groups visits and they look after us. These breaks are special, magical, staff and carers spend a lot of time together, conversations flow, home baking and being together creates that sense of being cared for and carers value that.
20% of the carers taking part this year were new to our services and had not been on a break before with us. 15% of carers came from minority ethnic groups. Over 70% of the carers told us that Stepping Out is the only residential break away that they have for themselves. Carers with complex and challenging caring situations were prioritised for places.
What Care for Carers has learned
Typically over 30% of carers that came on the breaks have long term health conditions of their own but we see an increase in carers experiencing poor mental health and/or anxiety related issues of their own. Having staff support for the residential's is extremely important particularly for these carers.
We have more couple carers coming away on the rural breaks, getting time and space away together which they tell us has a positive impact on their relationship as well as getting a break from their caring responsibilities together.
There was an improvement for the majority of carers across all the outcome indicators above but loneliness continues to be the hardest thing to change. Even when carers have scored high for being less stressed and more motivated they can still feel lonely. We know that older carers are more at risk of this but we also see more female carers in their 50’s and 60’s experiencing more social isolation, tying to juggle work, family and caring and leaving their own interests or time out to the end of the list.
The majority of carers we took away on the rural breaks this year were female so this is not to say that male carers are exempt from this. Indeed we do know that some of the male carers felt exactly the same. The smaller group size and the location of the rural breaks is a positive factor in tackling some of these issues. As is giving carers a safe space where they can relax enough to tell us about how they are feeling.
Making local connections gives our project and the carers a lot of support. The feedback below shows this. “Cosmos Planetarium has been the platform that enabled us to develop a relationship with Care for carers. The Coll and the Cosmos events bring visitors to Coll in the off peak season. This is obviously of benefit to accommodation providers, the local shops, the café, hotel and An Cridhe (the community hall where these events are hosted), in financial/economic terms.
The courses being in the off peak season is an ideal time for carers coming here for a break. It is a relaxing, peaceful time of year, and we are proud to be part of a partnership that gives people this opportunity. Bringing carers from a much more populated area like Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, gives them a unique opportunity to experience something of island hospitality, as well as our unpolluted Dark Sky. As a community we love to share our island.
I have tried to imagine what it would feel like not to have the carers coming over to Coll, and I think “impoverished” is an appropriate word. The benefits to a large extent are things difficult to put into words, or to put a numerical value on. It has been wonderful as a member of staff at the community centre to host the carers groups and see the enjoyment they get from coming here.
It is also exciting to see the relationships between all 3 organisations develop as one relationship leads on to others.For example, in April 2019, we were able, courtesy of the Care for carers, to host a chemistry workshop that members of the community were invited to. None of this would be possible without the support of funders” Staff feedback from Isle of Coll Bunkhouse Community Group
One of the carers would like to go back to Lismore and volunteer at the Bunkhouse with her son who has learning disabilities. We are in the process of matching them up with the bunkhouse owners to see if a return visit on that basis would be possible.
How Care for Carers has benefitted from the funding
This funding stream has allowed us to build on the remote rural programme this year by extending the Astronomy programme as well as remote rural breaks focused on being in nature, walking and taking part in a mix of social and physical activities. Allowing us to test out new ideas, build new partnerships and try something new. Growing evidence and learning and which then enables us to show that to other funders to build the service for the future. It is hard to find funders who will take some risk with their funding so Creative Breaks has been very important in enabling us to try out and continue to develop these services. From running the Dark Sky Astronomy breaks we had a lot of enquiries from carers who were really interested in the locations but not the subject so we knew there was a demand for remote rural breaks. Creative Breaks funding enabled us to pilot breaks that focused on being in a remote location and taking part in a range of activities such as music, astronomy, walking, art, socialising, cooking and eating together while there. This has resulted in us expanding and developing our service provision to new locations across Scotland. As an organisation this strengthens us as our knowledge and learning, staff skills and networks are growing all the time. It has been a really exciting year and the feedback from carers has been so positive we know we are headed in the right direction.
75% of carers who take part in the service will report having improved well-being 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 well-being, feeling less stressed, recharged and rested, more motivated and safe, secure and looked after. Stepping Out is a group based residential experience and carers feedback tells how important that is, to be with peers and people who understand the emotional roller-coaster of caring. ‘I loved my walks, picking brambles, taking photos, the moon on the sea, the view from the window, lovely food in the bunkhouse, all sitting round the table, Being Heard! A nice feeling of acceptance. Feel special and valued.’ ‘enjoyed the tours, the chemistry bath bombs, the tranquillity, meeting new people to the noisy atmosphere of the Saturday night sing song, a unique balance!’ ‘I will remember the peace and quiet while out walking on the island, chickens wandering free around the bunkhouse (sometimes in the bunkhouse), the blackberries and blackcurrants growing freely at the side of the road
AH is a single parent with five children. Two of her daughters both have mental health issues. The carer has two young sons, one has learning difficulties, he is 9 years old and his brother who is 7 years old is autistic. On first meeting with the carer she told me that she felt let down by statutory services and didn’t believe that we could do anything for her. She said she has no life, she is isolated and constantly tired, she was concerned for the family’s future and how she could sustain caring for them. I met with AH once a week at her home as she was unable to travel to our main office. I asked AH what would help her with her caring role, she told me if she could just get some time to herself and if the two boys could get a place at a summer club where they would have some fun and she would be reassured they were enjoying themselves and being looked after. Her youngest son had been off school for 7 months, AH was with him 24/7, he only sleeps for a few hours and is very hyperactive, aggressive and destructive. AH was very concerned as to how she was going to keep going during the summer holidays as all the children would be at home. We contacted Social Work and spoke to the youngest son’s worker to ask what respite hours were in place and did she have anything in place for him for the summer holidays. AH was given 3 hours per day which she said wasn’t any good to her because she wouldn’t have any time to do anything. We suggested that we apply for funding from the Carers Trust and to use these funds to pay for the boys to attend a summer playgroup appropriate to their needs. The carer was awarded £250, the total cost for the week was £350, AH was delighted to receive this funding. I applied to ‘Time to Live’ fund for funds towards a break for the family, they were awarded £350. The family enjoyed a caravan holiday. The carer attended C4C daybreak trip to the theatre, her daughter came with her they both said they thoroughly enjoyed the show and that this was the first time they had quality time just the two of them. After much discussion and encouragement AH attended a Stepping Out break for the first time. She was very anxious and said she felt like running back home whilst we were waiting on the train to leave. She was really concerned about how the family would cope without her, she also felt guilty for leaving them. She said once she had spoken with a member of Care for Carers staff and other carers she felt more at ease and able to go on the weekend. She told me getting away for the weekend, being looked after by the staff and meeting other carers was “an absolute godsend”, she really enjoyed herself and she now knows that she has to have time out. Due to the carer having such a significant caring situation we were able find funding to offer her a second weekend SO break. On this occasion AH again had a wonderful time, she has made 4 new friends from the weekend and they all meet regularly.
75% of carers taking part will report having a positive break for themselves away from their caring situation and with their peer group.
We have achieved this outcome with over 75% of carers telling us they had fun, learnt something new, had a positive experience and a better understanding of other carer’s situations. As part of the breaks we bring in a variety of workshops, activities or event options, sometimes on unexpected themes. Often the feedback from carers is most powerful when they have taken part in something they knew little about, learnt new things and enjoyed the experience and the challenge. It reminds carers of their own identity as an individual and not a carer and this is a common theme on the evaluations at the end of the break. 'Been lucky to be part of a wonderful group of people and have the chance to participate, it all worked really well, even a few days of rain did not dampen the camaraderie'
PS is 85 years old and cares for her husband who has advanced dementia. She was referred by her son whom also cares for his father. PS was reluctant at first to meet with me, I suggested we could meet together with her and son, she then agreed to meet. After several one to one meetings with PS I encouraged her to attend Care for Carers Christmas Open Day. She did attend this event and thoroughly enjoyed the day. She then signed up for more of the daybreak's which she was then able to attend on her own as her confidence had grown and she had made friends with other carers. PS then attended a Stepping Out weekend break. Once again she told the staff how much she had enjoyed the weekend and how she was looking forward to going on another weekend break. The carer’s son began meeting with me once a fortnight to receive emotional support. PM and his mum had begun looking into long term care as his father’s condition was deteriorating and his mum was finding her caring role increasingly difficult. PM said that he thought his mum would never consider long term care for his dad but since she had been talking with other carers at Care for Carers events and Stepping Out she was then able to make this decision. Both carers found a suitable care home and a place became available in a matter of months. PM told me that though it was difficult visiting his father and having to leave him after visiting he feels they had made the right decision for everyone. He believes his mum would never had made this decision had she not come to Care for Carers and especially meeting other carers and hearing their stories and receiving both peer support and support from staff. PM said his mother is “like a new woman” since joining Care for Carers she has a new lease of life, new friends and now has a social life. PM is unable to attend Care Cor Carers daybreak's due to his working hours but was supported by Respitality and has enjoyed a few breaks where he has taken his partner with him. He said he now feels confident enough to take a break from his mum knowing that she is no longer isolated and that his dad is receiving professional care and his father seems very happy in the care home. PM would like to continue to receive emotional support from the team as he is aware that though his mum is coping very well now he still has to support her in other ways i.e PM has POA for both his father and mother, his mum is 85 years old and has some health issues.
75% of carers will report that taking part in the break has helped them to cope with and continue their caring role.
We have met this outcome with over 75% of carers reporting (graph above) improvements in them feeling recharged and rested, safe and supported, feeling more motivated and confident. Again this year a number of carers have told us they are planning to come back to the islands with family and friends, building on the relationships and networks they have made with the local people while they have been away with us. These carers have grown in confidence about making time to get away with friends as well as the cared for person. A group of carers have organised another trip away together which is fantastic, having met on Stepping Out for the first time. So peer bonding is something we are seeing more of. One of the greatest assets we can see carers develop over the course of a supported organised break like ours is to see them bond and make real and long lasting friendships that carry on way beyond the short break.
T came on a residential break for the first time; despite being a carer for over 12 years he has not accessed any support previously. This was also the first time that he had been away on his own without his family. And he has said since that this would not have been possible without the support of Care for Carers. He had been aware and receiving information about us for some time and had had some contact with staff which enabled him to feel confident and able to participate. His caring situation had intensified and was especially stressful around the time of the break and the break was very much of an opportunity to be far away “…..the opportunity to put considerable distance from the caring situation, the remote location and the time it took to get there, allowed me to disconnect from a very intense and oppressive situation………” The carer was very unsure about going away as he did not know anyone on the break but very quickly felt at ease with everyone. This was helped by the bus journey to Oban, sharing little incidents, worrying about catching the ferry and communicating information to one another, for instance about the journey time, weather etc. T considers himself very private and appreciated having a room to himself and being placed with compatible carers in the same accommodation. He also enjoyed the flexibility of scheduled events and the freedom not to take part “……did not feel any pressure to take part in things that I did not want to………..did not come to the first activity in the community centre but this was okay. I had felt slightly awkward but was easily reassured that this was not an issue. I appreciated the concern that was shown to me" You realise and are reminded of shared experiences of caring, even though the details are very different and feel less isolated”. I particularly remember the meals… a chance to talk to people and to have food together……………having the meals together in the bunkhouse, prepared by Care for Carers staff were very nice. It was something to look forward to. The carer has also said that he would look forward to another break like this next year and has expressed an interest in the trip to the Isle of Coll.