Dawn’s Volunteering Journey At The Carers’ Centre

Dawn has been volunteering at the Carers’ Centre for the last three years. Here’s her story:

My mum was ill from the age of 45 with early onset Dementia. There had probably been signs even before that. I was 17 at the time and my brothers and sisters were younger than me. I don’t even think the term “young carer” existed in those days, so it could be quite isolating. I’d have to give up things ordinary teenagers would take for granted, especially on a Friday night when I couldn’t go out with friends. Close friends knew but maybe I wasn’t always honest about what was going on. I wouldn’t say, “hey, the reason I’m not going out tonight is I’m looking after mum.”

Eventually, she went into a care home, but even then, there’s a struggle to give up a caring role. At first you look forward to the respite and not having the problems. But it’s also hard to relinquish things, when you’ve taken on such a protective role. So although my mum passed away ten years ago, caring’s been a big part of my life. It’s not to say you have to have caring experience to volunteer, but for me it’s definitely been a part of it.

And helping at the Carers’ Centre, you do use parts of your experience. Although you can’t generalise that everyone’s the same, you just appreciate that carers are here and it’s their precious time to have five minutes to themselves, get their thoughts together and get ready for the next day and challenge.

I found out about the Carers’ Centre through the Banes website. My volunteering started off gently with the gardening, which felt very easy to fit around my life. When you first do a voluntary role it’s like having another job, and with doing the 9-5 and paid work, that’s not always easy. So it was a nice introduction because I found my feet, got to meet people and it’s really welcoming here.

The first break activity I did was a pottery workshop with older carers. You have instructors, it’s not like you’re doing the workshop yourself and you get to engage with the carers that come. Sometimes you get to help and participate in a workshop, which has been an absolute joy and made volunteering far more rewarding for me.

I come from an art design background and what blows me away is their artistic skills. They’ll be the first to say “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body” but I’m ashamed to put my contribution on the table sometimes because they’ve really put their heart and soul into it. I think there’s a little bit of “you don’t always know what’s going to be happening next Wednesday”, so they really put in a lot of effort.

The satisfaction in volunteering is sometimes just the fact that you’ve done something. It’s lovely mixing with different people, so refreshing to hear about their lives and understand what they’re going through. Volunteering opens your eyes, in a nice way, it’s not all miserable. We’ve had crochet nights and been giggling over the most ridiculous things. It’s easy to get caught up in your own self and that’s what I find so refreshing about helping out here. You meet some really lovely people. Volunteering’s also given me a lot of confidence to do other things. It’s easy to pigeon-hole yourself and I think it’s given me more people-facing skills. Meeting people, just taking time to talk. We live in a society where you don’t always know your neighbours and I suppose my motto is, if you’re fed up hearing yourself moaning, do something about it. That’s how you’re going to change the world .

If you’d like to know more about volunteering at the Carers’ Centre in Bath and North East Somerset, go to our website at www.banescarerscentre.org.uk or call 0800 0388 885 or email us at: info@banescarerscentre.org.uk

Carer Conversations Session 5: Paul

Carer Paul, who cares for his mother, talks about how he has struggled to prioritise his own health and wellbeing. He feels that taking a break helped him to realise how important it is to look after yourself.

“The [Carers’ Centre Staff Member] took the time to make sure I was included. Going on that day out revitalised me, re-energised me. Depression is a roller coaster and I’ve been down but I still have that day out to hold on to… As an organisation you’re enabling me to give more to my mother.”

Take a listen here.

Coping with caring over christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time especially for carers.

Christmas is a stressful time for many people. It’s meant to be a time for family, festivities and fun, but when you’re a carer it can be an incredibly challenging time having to look after someone while dealing with the  extra pressures of the holiday season. 

So we’ve asked carers to share their tips and advice on how they cope with caring over Christmas.

Don’t let the holidays get you down, reach out to others for help .

Helen shared her secret of how she keeps herself and her young son happy in the build-up to the holidays. “Sometimes it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit. So I look and see what charity events are taking place, and try to support as many as I can.  

“There’s lots going on, particularly at this time of year.“ She also added that giving to a charitable cause helped her feel ‘Christmasy.’ 

It’s not only carers that can be overwhelmed by the festivities, but the cared-for can find it distressing. 

“My brother is used to a routine, so the holiday can be unsettling for him,“  said Teresa, who cares for her brother with learning difficulties.  “So I always talk him through what’s going to be happening on the day. I have to plan ahead to let him know what’s in store as well as being very organised.”

Sometimes it’s hard to maintain focus during the Christmas chaos, so advanced planning is crucial. Make sure you’ve got all the medication you need to see you through to the New Year, and get the emergency contact details for Social Services , your GP and the hospital. Also find out opening and closing times so you know when they are available.

Alison, who is the daughter of a carer, said: “We have a large family, and my mother has always prepared the meal on Christmas Day. However last year, it was evident the stress of looking after Dad, and trying to cater for all of us was too much. So this year we’ve decided to share the load and everyone  is pitching in and bringing a dish to share. 

“We had to suggest it, as she is very proud and wouldn’t ask for help.”

As a carer it’s important to look after yourself first, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. ’Tis the season of giving and goodwill so don’t hesitate  to contact friends and family when you are in need of assistance or if you just  need to talk. 

We would love for more carers to share their stories on how they cope over the holidays, so please share your stories with us and leave a comment.

Carer Conversations Session 4: Maggie

Maggie’s husband Al was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The most difficult thing for her was the fact that he knew and recognised most other people… but not her. She discusses the impact on their relationship, her wellbeing and how she managed while she was caring for Al.

“One day we were sat having our dinner and he looked at me and said, you are my wife, aren’t you? And I laughed and said of course I am! I still didn’t grasp that he was really asking, that he really didn’t know me.”

Click here to listen to part 1.

Click here to listen to part 2.

Carers’ Centre Volunteer Cafe – An audience with Television Writer Ray Brooking

A new initiative at the Carers’ Centre is the Volunteer Cafe, where volunteers have the chance to meet and chat over cake and coffee and hear from a program of local speakers.

To get the ball rolling, the Carers’ Centre invited award-winning television screenwriter and Clevedon resident Ray Brooking to give a talk about his 24 year career working on some of the biggest shows in popular drama.

As well as writing for The Bill, Casualty and EastEnders, Ray has also been on the writing team of WPC 56 and been nominated for an RTS award for BBC1s “Doctors” for which he has written over a hundred episodes.

Initially inspired by his love of comic books, Ray talked about his childhood watching shows such as “Z Cars” and “Juliet Bravo”, and the excitement of seeing his first episode of “The Bill” screened in 1995.

He also explained the pleasures and frustrations of working with limited time, sets and actors and the ingenuity required to weave his own plots into pre-existing formats.

“It’s the plotting I love, ” he said, “taking a simple idea and developing it to its full potential, there’s nothing like it.”

Ray’s next episode of “Doctors”,  “Empty Arms” will be screened at 1.45pm on BBC1 on Wednesday 30th October 2019

Carer Conversations Session 3: Dee

Dee cares for her grandmother, who has dementia, as well as her son who suffered a brain injury following an accident. Here she talks about the differences in her caring roles and how she manages her family life — generally with a sense of humour.

“I think humour is the best way to cope with most things… you’ve got to laugh otherwise you might cry.”

Click here to hear Dee’s Carer Conversation.

Carer Conversations Session 2: Immie & Bassie

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

September means back to school and we’re thinking about the young carers who maybe didn’t get so much of a break over the summer as their peers. Young carers can face a very challenging time at home with ill, disabled or frail relatives, struggling with sleep, managing homework, or keeping up with friends.

In this Carer Conversations session, two young people share their powerful stories. Bassie tells of the confidence he’s gained by getting involved with his local young carers service. And Immie shares her experience of being a young carer in school and the heartbreaking challenges she faced. Click the links below to listen.

“I couldn’t physically get her up from the floor. She had a concussion… And no one stopped to help.”

Bassie talks about gaining confidence

Immie shares her young carer experience

Meet Volunteer Carmen

Carmen is a volunteer at the Carers’ Centre in Bath and North East Somerset. She has recently completed her A Levels and is now studying Liberal Arts & Sciences with a major in Psychology to degree level.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

There were multiple factors and inspirations about how my life could be improved if I did things for other people. I realised that being of service to others actually makes you feel better. It’s certainly helped me recover from an illness and you improve your life, become a better person and can let go of a frightened way of thinking. It’s also helped me grow and develop and I think become a better version of myself.

Continue reading Meet Volunteer Carmen

Carer Conversations Session 1: Jayne Part 2

Last week we heard from Jayne about the challenges she faced caring for her mum, who has dementia. She said she felt like their roles had reversed and she had becoming the ‘nagging mother’, asking her mum to tidy up or cut her nails. Her friend Allie helped her by coming in and cleaning the house so her mum still felt like she had her independence.

Listen in to the second half of the conversation where Jayne talks about coping with emotional fallout.

Jayne & Allie Part 3
Jayne, Allie & Carmen (Part 4)

Carer Conversations Session 1: Jayne

Listen in to a conversation between Jayne, who cares for her mum, and her friend Allie. Jayne talks about the struggles of looking after her mum, who has been diagnosed with Dementia.

Jayne’s mother won’t let her clean the house.

“It came to a head at Christmas when I pulled back [mum’s] bed and it was brown. I knew I couldn’t let it go on any longer,”

Her friend, Allie, offers to help.

Jayne & Allie Part 1
Jayne & Allie Part 2

Come back next week for more Carer Conversations.