The Great Escape
A story by The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service
We aimed to provide quarterly breaks for carers whilst our service team hosted simultaneous events for their loved ones who have a dementia diagnosis.
What The Great Escape did
Due to Covid restrictions, it was not possible for the face-to-face events in the original programme to go ahead for safety reasons. On this basis, and after discussions with Shared Care Scotland in March 2021, we looked at safer online options as an alternative. We also held a 'Sports Day', outdoors, in a local park to supplement this new online programme. In addition, we requested a three-month extension to our revised project which was granted and allowed our service until December 31, 2021 to deliver this.
The online music events took place on the Zoom platform and people were issued with log-in codes for each of the music shows to take part within their own homes. Gift bags, containing snacks and refreshments, were also distributed to those who joined in to make it a more pleasurable experience. These online events took place on Friday, June 25, 2021; Friday, August 27 2021; and Thursday, December 23, 2021. The 'Sports Day' element of the revised programme took place, outdoors, in Cowan Park, Barrhead, on Friday, June 4, 2021.
On the day, there were outdoor games, such as Swingball, football, hoopla, hula-hoop etc. Both carers and cared for took part in the revised programme. Members of our support team discussed the programme with carers/cared for directly, and provided feedback to programme facilitators on who would like to take part for necessary arrangements to be made. Some carers were delighted to take part and enjoy the revised programme itself, while others opted to use this time to pursue other activities.
The programme provided mutual benefit to both carers/cared for by giving them opportunities to take part in fun activities and to socialise with others online. This was targeted support to help address risks of loneliness and social isolation due to Covid restrictions/lockdowns or shielding issues. The online element of the programme also really helped to reach people affected by these issues and assisted us to reach-out to those who had been becoming increasingly isolated due to covid-related issues (shielding/lockdowns etc). It also enabled people who were previously unsure about attending groups to join in the fun events.
What The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has learned
Planning ahead has been difficult for everyone due to the ongoing pandemic. We feel, however that we were able to adapt our plan quickly to deliver a varied and fun alternative programme. The changes to the programme meant that it came in well under budget too, as components such as transport costs and venue hire were not required.
The online element, however, has helped us as a team to reach out and engage with some new carers/cared for, particularly those who previously had never attended group events, which can sometimes be for a variety of reasons. We have had to adapt quickly to changes in Covid regulations and guidelines, sometimes at very short notice, but believe that we have managed to deliver a varied and enjoyable alternative programme of events.
How The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, East Renfrewshire Dementia Service has benefitted from the funding
The funding has enabled our service to explore new ways of reaching out to people in the local community right across East Renfrewshire, many of whom had been becoming increasingly isolated due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions and/or shielding issues. Having amended our programme to incorporate online elements, this has enabled us to include those who previously had not attended face-to-face group events. Such has been the success of these programme components, we will be incorporating an exciting and varied online programme into our regular, day-to-day service delivery as the recovery from the pandemic continues. The staff team have all enjoyed delivering the online elements of the programme, have had to adapt quickly to changes, and have picked up valuable new skills along the way.
We believe that it is more important than ever to ensure that carers once again get regular chances to enjoy themselves again socially. Hopefully we will hear from the carers that they enjoyed our four events, and these had given them the opportunities to meet up.
Despite having to make extensive changes to our original programme of events due to Covid restictions, the amended programme has been really well received by those who attended our three online music events and our outdoor sports day. A number of the carers took the timeout to go and pursue hobbies and interests, effectively giving them regular opportunities to enjoy some personal, free time outside of their caring role, as indicated in Outcome 1. Other carers opted to join in with our online music events, and enjoyed socialising with other carers again. This felt like the programme had succeeded by giving carers the personal options to choose what would work best for them.
Prior to the project getting underway, many community-based supports for carers/cared for had been suspended or cancelled completely due to the ongoing pandemic. Carers told us how they had felt isolated and cut-off from their families and friends, and that this was having a very negative impact on their day-to-day lives. Following our programme we were told that it helped carers feel connected again and able to pursue other interests/hobbies for a few hours away from their caring role. Taking part in our programme were carer Ken and his wife Sheena. Sheena attended our first event, an outdoor Sports Day held in a local park. On the day, one of our support team visited their home and brought Sheena along to the event. Ken is a keen golfer so took the opportunity step away from his caring role for a few hours to get out into the fresh air himself and get some exercise on the golf course. Sheena too enjoyed a great day outdoors, socialising in the company of others, and took part in a number of outdoor activities and games. Sheena later saw someone using a hula-hoop that we had brought along on the day and she said: "I would love to do that again." With assistance from a member of our support team, she was able to do exactly that... an absolutely lovely moment. Carer Alice also attended on that day with her husband Paul. While Paul took part in the fun activities, Alice took the opportunity to step away from her caring role and take their dog for a long walk around the park in the sunshine.
We hope that carers get time to de-stress, “recharge their batteries” and relax, meaning that they can return to their caring roles feeling revitalised. We also hope that bonds form amongst those attending, these leading to informal support networks amongst the carers forming too, that can continue.
As with Outcome 1, the pandemic meant that we had to make extensive changes to our originally planned programme of events. The amended programme led to carers commenting that it was great to be connected with others online and to have a chance to socialise and chat again with other carers having previously been subject to restrictions due to the pandemic. Some carers also opted to take the opportunity to pursue other interests or hobbies, relax and unwind. The support provided by the programme enabled them to do that as our staff team were on hand to ensure that their loved ones were engaged in the organised activities.
Carer, Alice, who opted to attend online with her husband Paul, speaking about our first online music show, told us: "Nothing needed to be changed, we both thoroughly enjoyed this event." She added that Paul was relaxed throughout and that he enjoyed joining in with the songs in the online set. Alice also told us that the party bags, with snacks and refreshments included, which were delivered in advance of the events were a really nice touch, which added to both her own and her husband's enjoyment of the events. Alice added that both had enjoyed the much-missed social interaction and seeing/speaking with some familiar faces on screen, many of whom they had both not seen for more than a year. Alice commented favorably on the timing of the event which gave them both something fun and interesting to do during the evening.