Time for Me - Adult Carers
A story by North Argyll Carers Centre
We provided Monthly Time for Me groups, residential breaks, creative therapies, therapeutic massage sessions and a daily blog, for adult carers living in rural, remote locations, enabling them to stay connected and informed, get a break from caring, receive peer support and focus on their wellbeing.
What Time for Me - Adult Carers did
27 face to face and 101 online Time for Me sessions to unpaid adult carers across the Oban, Lorn and Isles area and the people they care for. Face to face groups held within local communities in Dalmally, Kilmelford, Taynuilt, Tobermory and Appin. Online sessions via Zoom.
2 residential visits; a wellbeing retreat on Tiree for 6 former carers; a writing retreat for 5 carers, to Landmark Trust property Saddell House in Kintyre. 94 relaxation and therapeutic massages sessions to support carers’ health and wellbeing, delivered both at our centre and in carers’ own homes.
Creation of “Caring & Sharing Cookbook” which is a project that evolved out of online coffee morning discussions between carers. Participation in our Time for Me groups is open to all carers and the people they care for and is publicised via our website, blog, email, newsletters and by word of mouth either from carer to carer or through regular staff review calls with carers.
We chose the Writing for Wellbeing Group for the retreat at Saddell House as, though the group met regularly, we had never had a sustained amount of time to work together on a project. We felt that those who took part would benefit from the opportunity to have time away from caring to focus on a project together, creating enduring peer support relationships and concentrating on their own health and wellbeing.
With the Tiree wellbeing retreat we chose to offer places to carers who we knew were particularly struggling and would benefit from a break away in a supportive peer group, project areas: increased opportunities for a life outside caring, ensure carers feel better supported to sustain their caring role, improve carer wellbeing, strengthen relationships between carers and cared for.
An unexpected benefit of moving groups online is that it has enabled us to bring together carers from all areas without the geographical barriers of living in remote and rural locations. Carers who would not otherwise have met are now in contact and support networks extended. This has been valuable learning and we will retain a blended approach to delivery of support when face to face support can resume.
What North Argyll Carers Centre has learned
Our primary piece of learning from the project has been around the opportunities that remote access to activities has provided for carers living in remote and rural locations. We are exploring means of retaining this even when we return to face to face support. We want to ensure we can offer a blended approach and we are looking for solutions that will allow carers to have meaningful virtual connection in to face to face sessions through some kind of video conferencing. This will necessitate some research into effective options , staff training and purchase of equipment.
Lockdown has brought into sharp relief the value of partnerships in delivering joined-up support. We in discussion with another local wellbeing organisation regarding seeking funding together for joint working around health and wellbeing which we hope can lead to identifying unknown carers and targeting families most in need of support.
We are very aware that virtual engagement with our service does not appeal to all carers and for many this is a barrier which we will likely not overcome. We will continue to use other methods to remain in contact; calling them regularly to ensure they remain connected in and feel fully supported; and sending out newsletters and other communications by post. We continue to seek ways to meet the challenges of delivering alternative short break opportunities posed by Covid-19 and are looking to make greater use of outdoor activities when restrictions and weather allow.
How North Argyll Carers Centre has benefitted from the funding
The Creative Breaks funding has enabled us to deliver groups and activities to carers across our area and to take opportunities for a break from caring into remote and rural communities, where geographical location has previously been a barrier to participation due to the time required to travel to the carers centre. We have had to be imaginative and innovative in light of Covid-19 restrictions and find new means of connecting and meeting our commitments to this project. Our staff and carers have developed their skills and this has benefitted them not only in terms of connecting with one another but also in the wider context of communicating with family and friends. Carers and staff alike have improved their sense of wellbeing through this. There was a lot of despondency amongst staff when face to face work ceased and they felt cut off from the carers they support. Learning to use online platforms has been of value to their ongoing practice. Our intergenerational knitting bee which evolved from diversifying the online Time for Me groups has lead to us being nominated for the Generations Working Together Excellence Award. Learning to blog has been an amazing way to connect with carers on a very personal level, ensuring that they feel that we’re ‘all in this together’, and that we can all feel vulnerable and down at times. It has been a great way to share coping mechanisms with carers on a daily basis throughout lockdown, and highlight daily good news stories to help raise the spirits.
80% carers will feel increased wellbeing through access to therapies and wellness activities incorporated into groups
Fully achieved prior to lockdown we were able to offer therapeutic massage and relaxation therapies to carers face to face. We were able to observe the value placed on these session from verbal feedback from carers after sessions and by the numerous requests for repeat bookings. Wellbeing activities are also incorporated into our extended Time for Me group offer. Wellbeing sessions have included Mindfulness, gentle exercise, chair-based exercise, yoga, Pilates, Body Boosting Bingo, Writing for Wellbeing and our Intergenerational Knitting Bee. Where carers have indicated they were not keen on the activity, or attendee numbers dwindled away we have removed those options and have replaced them with others based on the recommendations of carers about what they would enjoy. Through trusted relationships we have collected verbal feedback from carers. We have also made use of Padlet online to replace our usual means of collecting feedback via our post-it wall after sessions.
One of our Carer Support Workers identified an older carer who was feeling very socially isolated and lonely at the start of lockdown. The carer lived in a remote, rural area and with no transport and due to her anxiety about using public transport she felt very cut off. We helped the carer to get a laptop and our Training and Development Coordinator worked with her to encourage and support her to take her first steps with Zoom. Though at first very uncertain and cautious about this, she persevered and grew in confidence. She has gone on to be one of our most regular attenders at Time for Me groups, taking part in everything we have offered. She is an active member of the Knitting Bee, encouraging and helping the young carers who attend. She has stated that lockdown has revolutionised her life as it has opened up such opportunities to socialise and feel connected.
16 Carers (over 2 breaks) will have the opportunity to access a residential respite break and report they have had more opportunity to enjoy a life outside caring and feel empowered to access further breaks
Fully achieved - We were able to provide two residential experiences for carers, because of the nature of caring roles, though we were able to offer 16 places , some carers felt unable to commit to the opportunity, or had to drop out because of issues arising at the last moment. Those who did take part were able to benefit from the chance to have a tranquil break from caring, to feel valued, to access support from their peers, to have new and life-affirming experiences and to return to their caring roles and those they cared for feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. as these quotes demonstrate: ‘This trip has been literally life changing for me. I had no idea I could still experience happiness like this’. ‘I made new friends on the trip, and I think we all helped each other in some way’. ‘A much needed opportunity to rest and reflect in a safe and held space amongst other people who had experienced loss & bereavement. It was deeply healing, and greatly appreciated’.
Carer A cares for her disabled son, aged 43, who has recently moved to supported living out with Argyll & Bute because of his age and complex needs. Her son is anxious and calls her on the phone many times a day. She also cares for her husband, who has multiple health issues, and the carer has many health issues of her own. Carer A is on constant alert for her son’s health and wellbeing, and rarely goes far from home. She is a prolific writer, and is part of our carers writing group ‘Writing for Wellbeing’. After a lot of persuasion she agreed to join the rest of our writing group for a 3 night retreat at Saddell House, Kintyre. Saddell House had no telephone, no mobile signal and no Wi-Fi , so it was a complete break away from the reality of their caring responsibilities for the group. Carer A was able to immerse herself in writing exercises while on the retreat. I could watch her relax from the time we arrived at the property. She took a ‘mother hen’ role, enjoying lighting the log fires every day for us all. For the short time she was away on the retreat she was able to forget about being a carer, and enjoy the understanding of the group. She talked a lot about the difficulties of her caring role over the years, and was uplifted by the peer support. For the first time in 41 years she said she was able to be herself among friends without worrying about caring.
Through a combination of groups and developing peer support networks , carers will feel less isolated, a feeling common in carers in rural and remote areas, will feel increased inclusion support through peer support and also increased access to carer support and information
Fully achieved - Prior to lockdown we delivered groups and activities in the communities where our carers live. We held Time for Me groups in Tobermory on Mull, in Dalmally, Kilmelford, Taynuilt and Appin with carers attending with those they care for. This provided them the chance to socialise within their local communities and develop friendships and networks locally. Taking the support to carers made them feel more valued and included. Since lockdown our groups have moved online and we have extended the range of opportunities available to encourage greater participation from carers of all ages and interests. This innovation has meant that carers have been enabled to meet, socialise and gain support from peers both in their own localities but also from across the whole of our catchment. Our daily blog, with its informal, personal tone, has been a popular and very successful way of keeping carers feeling connected with the centre's activities and disseminating vital information.
Carer C cares for her husband who has Parkinsons Disease. Before lockdown she was involved in lots of groups in the area, attending some with her husband and some on her own. Following lockdown she was feeling increasingly isolated as they were both shielding so by being able to attend our online Zoom groups for carers she has been able to have a life outside caring again. Attending several of our groups - Coffee Morning, Knitting Bee, Healthy Carers Group, gives her the chance to interact with other carers for peer support, which in turn helps her feel better supported in her caring role. Attending the groups keeps her mental health well and enables her to sustain her caring role. Being able to knit for projects that support people in developing countries gives her a great sense of worth, and she is able to pass on her knowledge in this intergenerational group, while making new friends.
Additional project outcome
Strengthen relationships between carer and cared for
Carer B cares for her elderly father and they are able to attend the Port Appin ‘Time for Me’ Group monthly together. This enables the carer to socialize with her neighbours that she is often unable to spend time with due to her caring role. Her elderly father brings along his Squeeze Box to the group and plays music to the group. This is a wonderful social occasion for both the carer and her father who would otherwise be fairly isolated at home, and attending the group together is a great way for them both to strengthen their relationship, while enjoying an afternoon away from home amongst a group of local friends. We have different activities at the group each month which give the carer and her father time to interact in lots of different ways from competing against each other in quizzes, to exercising together, and sharing reminiscence stories. The group has an afternoon tea together before we finish and both the carer and her father really benefit from having this time to talk to their friends and neighbours away from their home.