Time For Us
A story by PKAVS - Carers hub
This project delivered a comprehensive programme of short break activities & events for unpaid carers of all ages living in Perth & Kinross.
The programme of activities offered carers a much needed break from their caring role and a chance to meet new people and see they are not alone.
What Time For Us did
Some of what we applied to deliver was curtailed by the Omicron variant of Covid which appeared towards the end of 2021. This affected our ability to deliver our young carers Christmas extravaganza in particular although we were given permission to use some of that funding to send our young carers a Christmas gift pack instead.
So as a summary of what we delivered, to who and when would be:- 300 Xmas gift packs to young carers registered with us at that time. We delivered 2 day trips for young carers during the Easter and Summer school holidays in 2022. 120 adult carers and their cared for attended our carers Christmas Ceilidh in the Salutation Hotel in December. 12 carers and their cared for who attend our day services went on 2 separate 4 day residential breaks this past year. One was in Cumbria in early December and 1 in Aberfoyle in April 22.
Our day service clients and their carers also went on 4 day trips to the likes of Bankfoot Visitors centre and Blair Drummond Safari Park during this time.
6/ The day centre clients also were entertained most weeks by visits from the 'music man'. We provided our day service clients and their carers with Xmas lunches although these had to be curtailed somewhat because of Omicron. We held a showcase event for carers of all ages at Perth College during Carers Week in June. Our young adult carer service also provided opportunities to socialise through group support and day trips throughout the year.
The only time the project didn't really go to plan was in December 2021/January 2022 when the Omicron variant impacted on what we had hoped to deliver. However The Short Breaks Fund were understanding of this and very flexible in terms of offering alternatives. This coupled with the staff teams innovation and extra hard work meant we were still able to offer breaks in some guise even during this period.
For me the biggest success has been the variety of activities and the number of carers and their cared for who have attended. For many this was their first opportunity to do something out with the home for over 2 years and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
What PKAVS - Carers hub has learned
I think what we have learnt more than anything whilst delivering these short breaks for carers was how much they had missed them. Many carers said they'd taken 'breaks' almost for granted in the past and it wasn't until they actually weren't able to access these anymore did they understand just how much they helped them cope with their caring role. So introducing face to face contact again has been very well received but we had to be mindful that many carers still had anxieties about attending these larger scale events and so we continued to offer access to these virtually whenever we could.
One of the biggest challenges we are experiencing just now is we have many more carers registered with us than ever before many of whom want to access more of our services. This is mainly because carer packages are either reduced from before or haven't been put in place yet. This has been difficult to manage but wherever we could we tried to make sure that carers & their cared for were able to access as least some of the activities available. This way we tried to make sure that at least everyone got something as opposed to some attending everything and others missing out. This has been the same across all the services we offer and not just short breaks.
How PKAVS - Carers hub has benefitted from the funding
The biggest benefit we get from Creative Breaks funding is if we didn't receive it then we would have to curtail greatly the short break offers we make to carers & their cared for across all age groups. Truth be told this is one of a few pots of funding available that allows us to develop and deliver both innovative new ways of offering short breaks along with continuing to deliver more traditional breaks. It was through this pot of funding a number of years ago that we could evidence to our HSCP the demand for these type of breaks for carers and since then they have topped up the fund available to spend on these. The events we deliver are often delivered in partnership with other local carer related organisations. This is mutually beneficial but from our perspective it means we have a strong network of partners to deliver events alongside. It also helps with resourcing these whether that be staffing or actual delivery costs. Finally through the varied and well run & received calendar of events we deliver this helps reinforce PKAVS carers hub reputation as the go to place for carers if you are a carer or professional in Perth and Kinross.
Carers and their cared for will enjoy meaningful activities that will give both an opportunity to have life experiences that don't revolve around their caring role.
For many carers it was the first time in over 2 years that they were able to get some type of break from their caring role. Despite there being the odd hiccup (mostly Omicron) with the understanding of The Short Breaks Fund Team & the flexibility, in Perth & Kinross often alongside their cared for person. Evidence to support this would be how many carers and their cared for attended the activities on offer. Examples of some feedback we received:- 'The break allowed me to switch off from being a carer and recharge my batteries . It took away the worries and stress of everyday life. I was able to relax the mind, nourish my soul, smile and enjoy being me again :)' The break was a breath of fresh air and I came back to my caring role feeling lifted and energized. It allowed me to appreciate my health and wellbeing. PKAVS were and are just fantastic'
Carer A was invited along with her cared for to the residential break our day services delivered in Aberfoyle in April. The cared for person attends our day services twice a week and has a progressive dementia diagnosis that is impacting greatly on his health and as a consequence that of his wife. The 4 day trip to Aberfoyle was attended by 12 carers many of whom were in a similar situation with regards their cared for having a dementia diagnosis. The break was supported by PKAVS day centre staff and volunteers also in attendance. Carer A really enjoyed the time this break away gave her. She made mention of the following in the feedback she gave. It gave her something to look forward to. It allowed her to start new friendships and people to reach out to who were in the same position. Staff and Volunteers gave her the support she needed on the trip so she could take a break from caring which she feels she has done almost 24/7 over the past 2 years. 'It was the first time I can remember laughing in so long'.
Carers and their cared for will feedback that their attendance at these social events had helped prevent carer breakdown and helped support their relationship with the cared for person.
The feedback across the events we delivered was almost universally positive and to show that I have submitted a variety of comments made through the evaluations we completed after each activity was completed. “Thank you for inviting me to the group today. It certainly helped lighten my mood and made me feel happier. K has a good sense of humour and her passion for what she does comes through, this is important for those of us that have felt ignored in the past” “Many thanks for this morning’s chat and quiz. Thoroughly enjoyed it and looking forward to joining in again” “Since joining the carers hub K was able to help meet me another carer. I love to walk and don’t like to go on my own, K arranged for me to share my details with another carer and we have since not only met up for a walk but got to know each other and am going to meet up more regularly” “What a fab laugh. I really enjoyed the event today and it was so nice to see so many familiar faces.'
Mrs B lives rurally in Perth & Kinross and cares for her husband who has early onset dementia. This has obviously turned the couples life upside down. Through being referred to us by Alzheimer's Scotland we were able to contact Mrs B to let her know what practical and emotional support we can offer now and in the future. We invited Mrs B and her husband to the carers Christmas ceilidh and through talking to a member of the team who attended that event it was discovered that Mrs B loved to go out walking although as she got older she was becoming ever more wary of going out for walks on her own. It was through this conversation at the ceilidh that a member of the carers staff sought and got permission to put 2 like minded carers in contact with each other as they both lived close to one another and both enjoyed walking. The 3rd quote in the box above gives clear evidence of the impact this has made to this carers life.
Carers and their cared for will report feeling less stressed and more relaxed in their relationship with each other with them feeling better supported to continue in their caring role.
This past year probably more than any other it was very important to deliver a calendar of short breaks to carers to help them feel better supported as for many the past 2 years had been really difficult and will have undoubtedly impacted negatively on their own mental health and wellbeing. We feel that despite some challenges e.g. the Omicron variant and also managing carers own anxieties about meeting up face to face again we still managed to deliver a programme of short breaks for carers of all ages. The feedback we received after each event made mention of how good it was to get out of the house again and meet other people. Many understood why services had been curtailed but mentioned it had felt like getting some short break activities reinstated had been 'a long time coming'. Perfectly understandable given all that they had and were still experiencing. Carers made mention of it being good to have something to look forward to again & they had enjoyed change of scenery.
The Carers Christmas ceilidh was a concern for us as we had it all planned to deliver in early December just as the Omicron variant became very prevalent. Despite this we still had well over 100 carers and their cared for attend with many saying they took the extra risk of coming simply because they wanted to do something that would help them and their cared for person's wellbeing. We think for many carers they were at the end of their tether given the 2 previous years they'd had, the worry around this new variant and the cold, dark nights that Winter brings. However when the Hotel re-assured us they would be doing all they could to keep things as safe as possible and our staff team were going to do likewise we found that nearly all those carers who registered to attend where reassured by this and did so. From the evaluations completed after the event the 3 main points made by carers who attended were:- carers had really missed this type of opportunities and if safe to do so would love them to continue. It was nice to get dressed up and out of the house for the first time in nearly 2 years and it was nice to speak to different people again and not just the person they care for and/or their immediate family.