Every Drop Counts: An Introduction to Wellbeing for Carers

By Grace Moorton
Carers Support Officer

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing relates to how we feel in ourselves and it is different for everyone. If we feel satisfied that our lives are going well, we have a sense of purpose, feel in control, and are happy with our health (both physical and mental); then we might say we have a good level of wellbeing.

Keeping a high level of wellbeing can be hard when we are caring because of all the extra challenges thrown our way. Imagine a glass being filled with water. The water represents all the stressful things that can negatively affect our wellbeing, like finances or work.

As a carer, our glass may already be very full and it only takes one small drop of water for it to overflow. If our glass overflows then we may feel unable to cope and this can negatively affect our physical and mental health.

Small steps can make a big difference

We cannot always control the daily hassles that we face, but we can control things that may help to improve our wellbeing. Just as one more drop in our glass can cause it to overflow, one small action could help to keep things under control: making the difference between coping and not coping.

If you are looking for ideas, there has been recent research into actions we can take, such as the “The Five Ways to Wellbeing” (New
Economics Foundation). This suggests five key steps to improve our wellbeing with examples for each. Click the link for more information.

The first step

No one has more expertise in ways to improve our wellbeing than ourselves. We know what we like and what we don’t like, what works for us and what doesn’t. We can start with a very small
step: by simply asking ourselves “what makes me
feel good?”

For example, you could –
• Enjoy a nice cup of tea
• Listen to your favourite piece of music
• Go outside for five minutes of fresh air

Making a list of all these things is a great way to remind ourselves of the small steps we can take to improve our wellbeing, and to ensure that we make time for this.

Of course, there may be times when we feel we cannot cope and our glass seems to overflow whatever we do. It is at these times that we might need to ask for extra help, and this is OK. In fact, asking for help is a great step in itself when looking after our own wellbeing.

Whether we are making small steps or big steps, we can take control of our own wellbeing, and every drop counts.

Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine This Winter

As a carer for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own health.  Flu can knock even the healthiest people off their feet for a couple of weeks, making it impossible for a carer to look after the person in their care. This is why the NHS offers a free flu vaccination for those either in receipt of a carer’s allowance and/or look after someone who is elderly, disabled, or somebody who lives with a serious long term condition who couldn’t manage without their help.

It’s not just about protecting you as a carer from getting flu, but also preventing you from passing the virus onto the vulnerable person you care for.

Flu is a highly infectious disease which is easily spread from one person to another. Getting flu when you already have a long-term condition can lead to serious complications, and it can even be a killer.

For those who already have a long term health condition, are pregnant or are over 65, it can be even more dangerous as your body will struggle more to fight off the illness and you are more at risk of complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Children are also more at risk.

There are a lot of myths about flu that have circulated over the years. Many people worry that the vaccine can give you the flu. Please be assured that this isn’t possible as there is no live influenza virus in the vaccine.

Continue reading Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine This Winter

Hear from a carer about their journey with dementia — guest post

Steve Hynd writes about his family’s journey with dementia. Reposted with permission from Steve’s blog.

Steve’s mum Jackie with her favourite cow, Emblem.

Yesterday was my mum’s funeral, the end of a long journey that started many years ago. Its initial stages were played out behind the scenes, out of sight, deep inside my mum’s mind. Unknown to any of us, friends or family, the 100 billion or so neurons in my mum’s brain started a countdown. These neurons in her brain threw out neurological branches that connected to more than 100 trillion points, allowing for thoughts and memories to be formed and recalled. Slowly, and completely silently, this number started to drop. With no fanfare, an incredibly awful and utterly incurable process began that would only begin to show itself years later.

When it did show itself, it did so relatively innocuously. It was the odd repeated question, the occasional double take, the subtlest of shifts away from engaging in conversation.

The science behind Alzheimer’s tells us that the areas of the brain most commonly affected early on are those that are used for learning and planning. I remember patiently sitting with my mum trying to explain to her how to use her new mobile phone. The simplest instructions seemingly lost in the seconds following the conversation. In retrospect I can see the folly of trying to explain, and reexplain, something new to my mum. That I failed to mitigate my own behaviour, let alone expectations, to allow for the early onset dementia is both something I regret, and something that makes me feel embarrassed.

How unequipped I was to support my mum in those initial stages leaves a deeper sadness in me now than the ending of her story. She was preparing for one of the hardest journeys of her life, and I turned up with no shoes to walk in, maps to direct me or rations to sustain us. I was woefully ill-equipped.

Continue reading Hear from a carer about their journey with dementia — guest post

2 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing this Autumn

by Lindsey Clay 

Update 18th September 2018: 

Due to demand we will now be offering an evening yoga and mindfulness 6 week  course, venues and dates the same but with a 6.00pm—7.30 pm time slot.

We are coming to the end of our lovely sunny weather and heading into the beautiful and colourful autumn season. Changes may be happening in our own lives, be it children going back to school, changes in jobs or changes in our own health and wellbeing or that of those we love.

Here at the Carer’s Centre we are always working to help improve the wellbeing of carers within our community through our services. Read on to find out what we’ve got going on…

1. Try our new course of gentle yoga and relaxation

A new 6 week  gentle yoga course on Monday afternoons 1:30pm to 3pm is starting on the 8th October at our Centre in Bath. This is a trial project, so depending on interest from carers we may be able to offer this in other locations around BaNES.

Yoga mats provided (which you can then take home at the end of the course if you wish to help you continue your practice at home).

The course will be lead by Jules Allen who has written a little note about herself below.

I am a Yoga, Relaxation and Mindfulness Teacher, and I work with various organisations across Bath and Bristol. I specialise in teaching yoga, relaxation and mindfulness to people who may be beginners, people who may have health and mobility issues as well as people who have regular wellbeing practices.

Take time to rest and a moment to breathe, stretch & move, meet new people and make new friends as well as everyday ideas, tools and tips for bringing more well-being into their lives.

Having been a young carer, an adult carer and also living with Rheumatoid Arthritis I practice various yoga and relaxation exercises every day and really have valued the overall effect that yoga, relaxation and mindfulness has had for me and with the people I have worked with.

Continue reading 2 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing this Autumn

Sophie’s Story: ‘I believed I was a bad parent’

Sophie shares her experience as a parent carer.

“I’ve been on my own with my son since day one. I always found him hard work, right from the beginning. I thought it was because I was a rubbish parent and just not really cut out for it.

“When Kenzo was five his behaviour really deteriorated. He became verbally and physically abusive. Every single day he was hitting, kicking, spitting, biting, shouting, and screaming under tables at the adults at school.

“This lead to a couple of years of a really terrible time at the school. Weekly meetings; constant exclusions; visits from educational psychologists. The headmaster – along with multiple other professionals – told me I was a bad parent and I’d spoilt him, that it was all my fault.

I believed them – they were people who supposedly
knew what they were talking about.”

This, along with a very stressful full-time job with its own problems, and the anxiety and depression Sophie has dealt with since her teens, lead to what she now considers a breakdown.

“I couldn’t cope. I reached that point where – and I’m saying this as a proud person – I was just asking everyone and anyone for help.  And once I took that step it was like the floodgates opened. Once I had
made that change from being private and proud and ‘coping’, to realising that I just wasn’t, I recognised that it’s more important to get help than keep struggling on.”

Continue reading Sophie’s Story: ‘I believed I was a bad parent’

Sponsored Walk Set to Raise £2,000+ for Carers

We held our second sponsored walk last month on Saturday, April 21, to raise awareness of unpaid carers and the challenges they face.

Forty walkers (and a few dogs!) participated in the six mile walking route to raise money for carers looking after sick, elderly or disabled loved ones in Bath and North East Somerset. The group raised or pledged over £2,000 for the charity.

The group walked (some in fancy dress!) from Bath Carers’ Centre to Saltford’s Bird in Hand pub and back again, totaling just over six miles.

One of the walkers involved said: “It was a privilege to take part.”

Local solicitors Mogers Drewett were the main sponsor for the event, with support from Co-Op Mount Road and Co-Op Marksbury.

Kate Norris from Mogers Drewett, who also took part as a walker, said:

“We were so pleased to be involved in the walk, both as a participant and sponsor of such a fantastic event to highlight the great work that the Carers’ Centre does and the lifeline support it provides both to its members and their families.

We see the extremely positive effects and impact the Centre has on our clients and are keen to do what we can to support that. ”

The Carers’ Centre provides support to approximately 4,000 carers from the BaNES area, helping them to manage their caring role by offering information, advice, counselling, befriending and respite opportunities.

We also support young carers from as young as 5, who will often help with extra duties if they have an ill or disabled sibling or parent.

Budding Fundraiser Helps Raise Money for Young Carers

Finley with two of his helpers

After seeing the picture of the Carers’ Centre minibus with its tyres stolen, 7-year-old Finley knew he had to take action. He decided to hold a cake sale at his primary school in Bishop Sutton to raise funds for young carers and help get the bus repaired.

Finley’s family and school jumped on board with the idea, and with the help of the school PTA, Finley’s cake sale was a huge success. He raised £200 for the Carers’ Centre!

Finley said: “It was a lot of fun, lots of people helped and were really happy to come to the cake sale. I saw the photograph of the minibus and wanted to do something to help. The school does a lot of fundraising so I asked if we could do the cake sale for the Carers’ Centre.”

Finley’s mum Kate, who works at the Carers’ Centre, said:

“I’m really proud of him for deciding to do that for others and also very grateful of the PTA who helped massively both with time and effort baking. There were some amazing cakes on sale!”

Finley added: “Thank you to everyone for giving money and especially to everyone who donated the delicious cakes for the sale!”

We are super proud of Finley’s initiative and say a big thank you to him for his hard work.

Join Super Sonia on our Sponsored Walk

We are holding our second annual walk on April 21 and walkers may raise an eyebrow or two along the route. Fancy dress is being encouraged and our CEO Sonia will be donning a Superwoman outfit to lead the way.

Sonia says she hopes the walk will raise awareness of the Carers’ Centre’s work as well as funds.

‘It may seem silly walking in a fancy dress outfit, but as well as being fun it makes a real point. Often carers can be hidden in our society, tirelessly working to look after someone who is sick or disabled. We want to make them seen and ensure they get the acknowledgement and support they deserve.’

‘Obviously we’d also love to raise as much as possible but we also want people to get involved with their community, so all we’re asking is that people try to raise £25. Our walk in 2016 raised over £3,000 which was a great result for our first sponsored walk. We hope we can smash that target this year!’

With both 3 & 6 mile routes along the cycle path to Saltford, this family friendly event is accessible to all. The funds raised will make a real difference to local people who are caring for sick, disabled or frail loved ones.

The walk will also be an opportunity to say farewell to Sonia, who after eight years in post, is moving on from her role as Chief Executive. She is pursuing interests abroad but will stay on as a ‘distance fundraiser’ to continue writing bids and grant applications for the Centre. We are so glad Sonia can join us for the walk before she heads out on her next adventure!

To find out more about the walk, and sign up, click here or ring 01761 431 388

Guest Post: Hear from Young Carer Alex

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My name is Alex, I am 12 years old and I go to Ralph Allen School. I help to care for my 10-year-old sister, Izzy, who has developmental delays. She is both great fun and very hard work. I love her very much, but there are times when I find caring for her very difficult and stressful. I would like to tell you about my experience of the Young Carers organisation and why I think it is so incredibly important.

Many young carers don’t have access to things most kids do, either because their parent or parents are busy looking after their sibling or because their parents themselves need looking after, so are physically unable to transport them, or supervise. This can result in missing out on a lot of things, which doesn’t feel great.

My life felt a lot harder when my sister and I were younger, because she needed constant help and I felt there wasn’t enough attention to go around. Right now it’s tougher for my 8-year-old brother, Toby, than it is for me. It’s easier to entertain yourself when you are older by, say, meeting your friends in town, and I can just bus myself there and back, but when you’re younger, you rely on your parents a lot more.

In my family, our lives revolve around my younger sister. Continue reading Guest Post: Hear from Young Carer Alex

Half of infant young carers under ten are suffering broken sleep to care for family members

Young carer with her sister

Thursday 25 January is Young Carers Awareness Day (YCAD), a national day of recognition for the 700,000 young carers in the UK who provide care and support to family and friends who are disabled, ill, elderly or misuse substances.

A snapshot survey released by charity Carers Trust today reveals a high proportion of infant young carers (aged 5 – 10) surveyed by the charity are regularly suffering from broken sleep to help look after unwell family members.

There are now nearly 10,000 young carers under the age of eight in England and Wales who perform unpaid caring duties, with the most recent Census in 2011 finding a shocking 83% increase in the amount of young carers aged 5-7 since 2001 (2).

Carers Trust CEO Giles Meyer says, “The findings from our survey reveal a harsh reality for the very youngest young carers in the UK today, almost half of whom are regularly being required to get up during the night in order to look after their unwell family members.

“It is a tragic situation that children who have barely started school are losing sleep which is so significant to their development, and in the night-time, being exposed to and handling issues such as their siblings or parents’ panic attacks or epileptic seizures when they should be getting important rest.” Continue reading Half of infant young carers under ten are suffering broken sleep to care for family members